• External cost charging moves closer in Eurovignette review

    The principle of charging heavy vehicles for the ‘external costs’ they cause has been approved by MEPs in their response to the Commission’s proposed revision of the Eurovignette directive, but confusion still surrounds details of how member states can charge for the costs of congestion.

    The Eurovignette revision is a landmark piece of legislation intended to remove some EU restrictions on charging for external costs, although MEPs backed a Commission proposal to maintain a ban on charging for climate change costs.

    But the overall status of congestion charging under the draft legislation remains unclear after MEPs removed from an annex a definition of congestion costs and a proposed formula for calculating congestion charges. Yet a clause allowing governments to levy congestion charges on busy roads at peak periods is included in the main body of the legislation.

    The vote was clear in one respect: MEPs rejected a call by the transport committee to insist that if member states want to charge lorries for the congestion costs they cause, similar charges have to apply to cars too. With that condition removed, member states would be free to charge lorries or cars, or both, as they wish.

    The vote was at ‘first reading’, so the dossier now returns to transport ministers.

    T&E policy officer Nina Renshaw said: ‘Lorries make up just 3% of total road vehicles and 7% of total vehicle kilometres, but they’re responsible for 20% of the congestion. MEPs clearly want congestion charging to be allowed, and ministers must take note of this when they reconsider this legislation. After all, this law would not compel governments to charge, only enable them, so the aim should be to reduce restrictions on charging, not add them.’