Is Poland primed for truck toll expansion?

Campaigners in Poland believe they are close to persuading the government to expand the country’s road toll system for lorries. T&E’s Polish member Inspro is pushing for the existing system to become totally CO2-based – thereby discouraging the use of highly polluting lorries – and knows the Polish government is generally in favour of expanding road tolls, but it is still seeking the political will. The issue is important because the European Commission’s proposed revision of the Eurovignette directive next year could allow CO2-based tolling.
 

Poland has had its ViaTOLL lorry charging system since 2011, and it currently covers the country’s main motorways but not all of them (around 1% of the country’s total roads). Inspro is running a campaign ‘Trucks on Tracks’ which aims to expand the number of roads on which the toll applies, and to move it towards a CO2-based system when that becomes permitted under EU rules.

At the moment, the system is based on the Euro emissions standards for lorries, so for example a Euro-5 truck pays 50% of the toll in comparison with Euro-2 trucks. As an interim step, Inspro wants to include the Euro-6 standard as part of the ViaTOLL.

Piotr Skubisz of Inspro said: ‘The wider aim of our Trucks on Tracks campaign is to align the competitive balance between road and rail. The campaign was literally inscribed into the 2014 election programme of the current ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS) – it wrote into its manifesto: “In the field of rail freight as a priority objective, we will implement the principle of Trucks on Tracks”. But the government is a bit afraid of the implications, notably accusations that it will increase food prices. We are going to meet the transport minister soon in the hope of creating the necessary political will.’

Under the Eurovignette directive, any tolls on roads or road infrastructure have to be justified by the costs such roads cause to public funds, but the directive does not allow charging based on climate-changing CO2 emissions. There is pressure for change from countries like Germany who are keen on CO2-based charging to halt global warming, and if Inspro can get the Polish government to commit to the principle, the momentum for it to be allowed under the revised directive will grow.

Inspro is the name by which the Civil Affairs Institute is known. Based in Lodz, it is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation founded in 2004 based on experiences from Poland’s Nationwide Campaign for Sustainable Transport which ran from 1996 to 2003.