Ministers cautious about road user charge changes

September 16, 2008

EU transport ministers have given a cautious welcome to plans to improve charging for use of Europe’s roads, but T&E is concerned about a possible obstacle.

The Commission published draft legislation in July aimed at updating the Eurovignette directive on road user charging. It proposes removing the ban on member states charging road hauliers for the congestion, pollution and noise costs of lorry movements.

Meeting earlier this month, the 27 ministers largely supported the proposals, though with some reservations. Countries at the periphery, like Ireland, Portugal and Greece, were concerned that the timing of new charges while the price of oil is so high could damage them, while others were worried about limitations on what the revenues could be used for.

A potential obstacle could come following a demand from the Netherlands for congestion charging to be removed. The Dutch minister said it was unfair for lorries to be charged the costs of congestion when passenger cars were not.
T&E policy officer Nina Renshaw said: ‘This was puzzling, because not only are member states allowed to charge for car congestion, but the Dutch in fact plan to do so. If you take congestion out of the proposed legislation, you’re left with air pollution and noise, the costs of which won’t be a deterrent.

‘In addition, it’s bizarre and shocking that some member states still think it good policy to outlaw road charges that incorporate the costs of environmental and social damage. With ever increasing problems of air pollution and climate change, you’d think they would want to have all options open.’

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