The European rail sector welcomes the result of today’s vote in the European Parliament on the revision of the Eurovignette Directive, with a majority of MEPs voting for the internalisation of external costs of heavy goods vehicles. The outcome of the vote is a first - but important - step towards lifting the current ban on applying environmental charges to trucks. European governments should now follow the positive example set by the parliament.
The encouraging result of the vote is the outcome of the impressive work of Socialist rapporteur Saïd El Khadraoui, who drafted well-thought-out compromise amendments on crucial issues, enabling a majority of MEPs to vote in favour of the text. The proposal will ensure that member states are permitted to charge trucks for their external costs - or in other words, to implement the “polluter pays principle”, which national governments can already apply to private cars and to rail. The proposed rules are flexible at the same time, as it is up to the member state to decide whether to impose charges.
While the proposals are a good step forwards, the rail sector regrets the fact that the costs of C02 emissions are not taken into account, especially as tackling climate change is high on the EU’s agenda. However, the fact that MEPs voted to keep in congestion costs, and to allow member states flexibility in implementing such congestion charges is welcomed.
The result of the vote, with 359 MEPs in favour and 256 against the proposal, sends a strong signal to European governments in favour of reducing the environmental impact of road transport. The European rail sector now looks to the Czech presidency of the EU to push for an agreement among European governments that would allow member states to implement the directive as soon as possible. The current financial crisis should not be used as an excuse to block this vital legislation: the new rules would only come into force in 2012, by which time the global economy should be back on its feet.