• MEPs put brakes on green road charges

    The future of green road charging schemes in Europe has been hampered by a vote in the European Parliament's Transport Committee.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Last July, the European Commission proposed to revise the so-called ‘Eurovignette’ directive, the EU rules that govern lorry charges on main European roads. The revised proposal overturns an outright ban on including some of the ‘external’ costs of road freight transport in road tolls.

    On the key issue of congestion caused by lorries, estimated to cost the European economy EUR 24 bn each year (1), MEPs voted to water down the Commission proposal by inserting a clause that would only permit Member States to charge lorries for congestion when cars are also subject to such charges.

    An independent study commissioned by T&E and published last month found that lorries are responsible for 20% of congestion despite only being responsible for 7% of total vehicle kilometers, and just 3% of vehicles (1). This suggests that by tackling lorries first, congestion could already be cut substantially.

    MEPs voted not to allow Member States to include the costs of climate change and road accidents into road tolls.

    Regarding air pollution and noise, MEPs failed to overturn the artificially low caps on charges put forward in the Commission proposal.

    Nina Renshaw of T&E said: “The modest road charging schemes some countries have introduced under the current restrictive rules are already helping to improve the efficiency of road freight and bring clear environmental benefits. But the massive environmental damage caused by the sector requires more countries to introduce charging, and with more appropriate toll levels. But Europe keeps on imposing big restrictions and hampering the potential for progress.”

    “This vote should have been about removing the unnecessary caps and restrictions of the Commission proposal, but instead it added a few more. It is now up to Member States themselves to ensure these restrictions are lifted so that the true cost of lorries can be paid by the polluters themselves, not by society as a whole.”

    (1) The report ‘Are trucks taking their toll?’, along with a briefing on the Eurovignette directive and an overview of road charging schemes in Europe can be downloaded here.