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  • Spain accepts lorry charging

    Spain is developing a plan to introduce a distance-based charge for lorries. T&E says the move indicates that the need for stricter economic measures is driving a new wave of environmentally beneficial policies. The news comes as the European Parliament’s transport committee reached agreement on a revision of the Eurovignette directive that will allow EU member states to charge for air and noise pollution in road tolls.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Representatives of Spain’s three biggest parties – the PSOE, PP and Catalan CiU – said at a seminar last month that an analysis of developments on road freight charging led them to recognise that Spain would have to accept the new Eurovignette directive, and that such a move will ‘necessitate a revision of the current tax regime in the transport sector’. They said a charge would be introduced in Spain to come into effect by 2016 for all heavy vehicles.

    The socialist PSOE party’s spokesperson Rafael Simancas said the country’s current road infrastructure was costing €6 million a day to maintain, and that ‘we must think about other models of financing the infrastructure’. He added that Spain risks becoming an island in Europe if charges are not introduced.

    Charging lorries for the distance they travel will bring in anything from €1 million to €5m, depending on roads included and the level of charge set.

    The terminology being used in Spain for the new charge is ‘applying the Eurovignette’. The directive does not force member states to charge lorries for use of roads; it simply sets rules and parameters for those countries that do wish to charge.

    T&E deputy director Nina Renshaw said: ‘Spain is the latest in a long line of countries to announce a lorry charge, but it is a highly significant development. As a peripheral nation with a lot of small road haulage businesses, Spain has been strongly opposed to road charging and has lobbied against the revision of the Eurovignette directive. But we have been saying for a long time that an environmental approach to transport is good for the economy in the long term, and with the current economic downturn, it’s not surprising that all governments are embracing road charging. By the end of this decade, we are likely to see lorries all over Europe paying some sort of distance-based charge, and possibly all road vehicles, including cars.’

    Up to now, the Eurovignette directive has banned member states from charging for ‘external’ costs of road use, such as accidents, noise disturbance, air pollution and greenhouse gases. Last month’s clear vote by MEPs was to approve ending the ban on air and noise pollution, but it would not allow for greenhouse gas or accident charges. The legislation now goes to a plenary vote in June or July.

    MEPs voted to allow lighter lorries (3.5 to 12 tonnes) to be exempt from any charges, and to allow temporary exemptions for lorries meeting Euro V and VI pollution standards. They also voted to insist that revenues from lorry charges must be used for the transport sector rather than for general use, and that 15% of all revenue should go to trans-European network transport schemes.

    Spain has given no indication whether it would include an element for air pollution or noise in its new charge, if the revision of the directive is approved.