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Hearing on Eurovignette III

  15.12.2008    

The hearing took place while the 530 amendments that have been submitted by Members are being
translated. Members welcomed the hearing as a good opportunity to deepen the committee's
understanding of road charging. This could pave the way for a common TRAN approach to the
Eurovignette revision.
Six speakers were invited to illustrate the issue from their differing perspectives:
1) Mr Peter Bieri, President of the committee on Transport and Telecommunications, Council of
States of Switzerland, who is the Swiss counterpart of Paolo Costa presented the overall positive
economic and environmental impact of the Swiss charging system.
His conclusion is that, after 8 years of experience with the charging scheme, the new policy led to a
win-win situation. It has contributed to the desired modal shift policy and the trend towards more road
transport was halted. The road transport is now more efficient and more ecological. More goods
(+60%) are transported with cleaner vehicles and fewer journeys (-10%). In the meantime, the
revenues generated by this charge (around 1 billion Euro) are being invested in new rail projects (as the
NEAT or the new 57 km long Gotthard tunnel) and in road maintenance.
2) Ms Daniela Kovalcikova, Deputy Transport Minister of the Czech Republic presented the Czech
tolling system, their midterm plans, their expectations with regard to the proposal, and their
plans as incoming Presidency.
The introduction of a distance based toll system (and the replacement of their time based vignette
system) w a s approved in May 2004. The new electronic toll system was launched on 1 January
2007. To date, approximately 1,000 km of motorways and high-speed roads, and 170 km of A
roads, are subject to charging. A government regulation stipulates a differentiation of toll rates on
the basis of the type of road, vehicle emission class, and the number of wheel sets per vehicle or set of
vehicles. The weighted toll average has been set at CZK 4.05 (approx. € 0.16) per kilometre on
motorways and high-speed roads, and CZK 1.90 (€ 0.07) on A roads. The results achieved by the Czech
toll system to date have been very encouraging. In 2008 255,000 On-Board Units (OBUs) were handed
out, of which full two-thirds are used by foreign users. During the same period, CZK 5.6 billion was
collected (approximately EUR 220 million). 224 million toll transactions were required to collect this
sum. A 15% increase in toll income is estimated for 2009. All the funds collected through this system are
earmarked for the State Transport Infrastructure Fund and are designated solely for road network
renovation, repair, and construction, including its development, related also to traffic regulation,
information, telematics and safety.
At present, a draft amendment is being considered by the Czech Parliament which would make it
possible to expand the electronic toll system to vehicles with a weight over 3.5 tons by 2010. The
possibility of subjecting roads beyond the motorway and high speed road network to fees is also being
considered. A hybrid system is being developed, which would use both microwave and satellite
technologies.
The Czech Republic sees the discussion of this proposal as one of its main transport priorities.
3) Ms Petrouschka Werther, Project Manager Road Pricing, Dutch Ministry for Transport presented the
Netherlands' shift from time-based to distance based charging system.
Holland faces structural congestion problems in the economic centre of the country. The new system's
primary goals are fairness and a reduction in congestion. The main elements of the system are:
- Charge for every vehicle and every kilometre driven in The Netherlands - Basic rate per kilometre, differentiated according to the environmental characteristics of the vehicle (fuel, weight, euro class, CO2)
- Congestion charge at times and places where there is higher congestion
- Conversion of current (fixed & annual) taxes for purchase and ownership into per km-charge; no
increase of overall cost of road use - Revenue directed to an Infrastructure Fund
- Operating costs should be less than 5% of revenue
- Charging Heavy Goods Vehicles from 2011 (200.000) onwards
- Charging Passenger cars from 2012/2016 (8 million) onwards
- Technology based on satellite-navigation
- Development of open market for multiple service providers (longer term).
4) Mr Jean-Claude Delen, President of CLECAT (European Association for Forwarding, Transport,
Logistic and Customs Services), was generally against the proposal and presented the concerns of
the sector.
CLECAT is worried that road charging would curb innovation and diminish efficiency. Mr Delen argued
that a strategy should not favour other modes, as modes are interconnected in a multi-modal system
and road is not separate. Aspiring to a modal shift by charging for road use is a mistaken approach.
Modal shift is already occurring, and it happens where the quality of alternatives is good and the
road leg sufficiently cheap. He therefore asked the Parliament to request both the withdrawal of the
proposed Eurovignette Directive and its replacement with a more comprehensive Commission proposal.
Timely infrastructure planning, building and maintenance is the best way to address many
externalities, especially congestion.
5) Mr Klaus Ebeling, Secretary General of EIA (European Intermodal Association) put forward
alternative arguments and detailed his organisations's expectations and positive stance on
the proposal.
EIA advocates the “right” transport price, right in the sense of non-distorted conditions of competition
between transport modes, but also right with regard to respecting scarce energy resources and the
environment. In a correct market economy any market stakeholder has to pay for what he uses. The
Stern Report (on climate change) deplores the failure of market economies in this context by
allowing the environment and its resources to be exploited free of charge.
6) Mr Markus Maibach of INFRAS is the co-author of the impact study: Handbook on the estimation of
external costs in the transport sector. He pointed out that the Impact Handbook is fundamentally a
review of existing studies on the valuation of external costs for all transport modes. The handbook
provides exemples of best practice methodology for calculating external costs a s a basis for optimal
pricing in the transport sector. On a general level, one can argue that the Commission proposal is in
line with the theory and the research results detailed in the Handbook. The use of the values contained in
the Handbook in the Annex in the proposed Directive is pragmatic as it takes into consideration the
importance of public acceptability. The Commission’s approach covers about two thirds of the total unit
external costs detected in peak hours and a bit less than 50% of the total unit costs detected in off peak
hours.
The following debate was centred on the following issues:
- Should the revenues from the charging of infrastructure and external costs be strictly
earmarked or is this an undue interference in Member States' budgetary competence?
- General acceptance that congestion is a current and future problem for the transport system.
Investment in infrastructure, intelligent transport systems and efficient road charging for congestion
are effective solutions. The possible inclusion of private cars in road charging systems was also
discussed.
In his concluding remarks, the rapporteur Mr El Khadraoui pointed out that 80 % of the amendments
tabled to his report were on the question of which externalities to include in the proposal. He estimated
that there were compromises that could be made to deal with this question.


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