The introduction of user charges on the complete road network in the Netherlands could become a role model for a greener transport system in Europe. “Putting a price tag on each kilometre driven by cars and lorries will change the transport behaviour of people and companies,“ expects Johannes Ludewig, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER). “The charges will encourage the use of more sustainable transport modes and also lead to a more economic use of scarce infrastructure capacity,“ he points out.
On 13 November, the Dutch government approved the introduction of kilometre-based charges for passenger cars and heavy goods vehicles. The system implies that all road users will pay for their individual road use. It will replace current high taxes for car ownership and car purchases in the Netherlands and is thus expected to turn out budget-neutral for the Dutch state. The system will discourage the use of automobiles and lead to a significant reduction in CO2 and other harmful emissions. Implementation will start in 2012 and be completed by 2018.
The European Commission is currently investigating whether the system discriminates against road users from other EU member states because they will be charged by an alternative system to the electronic positioning system used for Dutch road users. “CER strongly urges the Commission to allow the Netherlands to introduce the user-pays principle in road transport. User charges are an important and necessary step towards a more sustainable transport system,“ says Johannes Ludewig.
The basic principles of the new charging system have been developed by the goverrnment in close
consultation and consent with all stakeholders, including labour unions, employer associations, and
environmental organisations, as well as the Dutch automobile association (ANWB) and the transport
association Koninklijk Nederlands Vervoer (KNV).