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  • Russia introduces road charging for lorries

    Road charging for lorries has been introduced in Russia, with environmental groups hoping it will bring a shift in freight from road to rail. The measure is intended primarily to raise money to repair roads; any environmental benefits look like being accidental.

    Russia’s first-ever road charging system for lorries, named ‘Platon’, was introduced in November. Initially, it was planned to charge all trucks over 3.5 tonnes, but the government’s final decision raised the starting limit to 12 tonnes, and only when driven on the federal highways. Of the 1.4 million km of roads in Russia, 51,000km are federal highways. There are around 1.7 million trucks over 12 tonnes.

    The Platon system is being operated by a private company, RT-Invest Transport Systems, which is owned by businesses loyal to the Russian administration. It has a 12-year contract to run the scheme, and it has a guaranteed annual income, irrespective of how much money comes in. Any revenue above RT-Invest’s guaranteed income goes to the federal budget, along with a declaration that the money will be used to maintain roads.

    T&E’s Russian board member Alexander Fedorov said: ‘The idea behind the introduction of road charging was not environmental at all, but in a country where it is very difficult to get policies on the environment, we are happy to see the environmental benefits from this charge. As there are often no alternative roads to federal ones, we hope road charging will reduce the use of trucks to transport goods in Russia as goods transport is redirected onto Russia’s extensive system of railways.’

    There has been considerable opposition to the scheme, with two strikes by lorry drivers. In addition, delays in the implementation of electronic onboard devices to calculate the money payable have caused further problems and further opposition; paper logs are still being used. The main objection is the increased cost, and protests have led to two reductions in the charge; it is now  €0.05 per vehicle kilometre after a temporary introduction rate of €0.02.

    Russia’s road taxation is notoriously low. For the most common private car brand (Lada, accounting for 37 % of all cars), annual circulation tax ranges from €2.68 to €32 per year, depending on the region. Russia also has toll roads, but their total length is just 471 km out of a national road network of 1.4 million km, and the maximum rate on a toll road is €0.33 per km.