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  • Study highlights disadvantages of time-based car ‘vignettes’

    Of the seven EU countries to have a ‘vignette’ tax system for cars, Hungary has the best and Slovenia the worst. That’s the finding of a study for the Commission that has looked at the seven existing systems as it is soon to publish draft guidelines for governments on minimum standards for vignettes.

    A vignette in road transport is a time-based charge that gives access to part or all of a road network. The seven EU countries to operate a vignette system are Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Switzerland also requires any vehicles using its motorway network to have a vignette, while Great Britain is considering a time-based vignette system for lorries.

    In preparation for the communication on making vignettes fairer, greener and less discriminatory towards foreigners, the Commission asked the American management consultancy Booz and Company to study all seven existing systems. Hungary comes out best in terms of respecting EU principles, while Slovenia is the worst. There are currently no EU rules on vignettes for cars, but any charges have to be ‘proportionate’ and ‘non-discriminatory’.

    T&E deputy director Nina Renshaw said: ‘We are keeping an eye on where this kind of research leads the Commission. We will know more when it publishes its communication on minimum standards for vignettes shortly, and there are implications for lorry traffic too, given that the EU transport white paper says infrastructure charging for lorries must be in place by 2016.

    ‘It’s reassuring to see that the Booz & Co report highlights the disadvantages of time-based systems – a lesson there for the British government as it wants to introduce a time-based lorry vignette – and looks at varying vignette fees on the basis of emissions classes. We will be looking to see if the Commission suggests setting maximum daily/weekly/monthly rates to avoid discriminating against occasional road users, and whether it integrates discounts for cleaner vehicles.’