The European Parliament’s Transport Committee approved a proposal to revise the Eurovignette directive to implement charges on heavy-goods vehicles based in part on the air and noise pollution they produce and the congestion they cause. The Eurovignette directive was adopted in May 2006 as a harmonized EU framework for charging heavy goods vehicles on European highways.
The European Commission’s original proposal included air and noise pollution and congestion but stopped short of including CO2 emissions. Some MEPs wanted to add CO2 to the list of chargeable costs, arguing that trucks, like airplanes, are partly responsible for climate change, but the committee voted today to exclude CO2 emissions from the text. Transport accounts for 27% of EU CO2 emissions, of which road transport accounts for 73%.
The proposal to include congestion charging met opposition from some MEPs who argued that it would be too heavy a burden on the sector in this period of economic downturn and that such a charge would be discriminatory, as private cars are also responsible for congestion. The committee reached a compromise which allows Member States to apply a congestion charge on lorries on the condition that they apply a similar charge to “all other road users”. Member States would also have to submit a cost/benefit analysis and an action plan setting out their measures to reduce congestion before applying the charge.
The directive is accompanied by a calculation method designed to adapt toll prices according to the environmental standard of the vehicle (Euro 0 to VI), the type of road used and the time period. Electronic tolling systems would calculate the right price according to these criteria.
The calculation method means that the overall extra cost for road users would only rise by approximately 3% if Member States choose to apply the charges, according to an impact study carried out by the Commission. Heavy polluters (Euro 0) would pay more, lower-emitting trucks (Euro VI and “clean energy” trucks) would pay little or no charges for air pollution. The same principle applies to the congestion charge: reduced rates would incite drivers to travel during off-peak times.
The MEPs support obliging Member States to invest the revenue generated from the charges into plans to improve environmental standards of vehicles and develop alternative transport infrastructure.
Roads in mountainous regions and conurbations will have a “mark-up” cost. The extra revenue from this mark-up would be invested into alternative parallel transport links (for instance, a mark-up introduced on the Alpine section of the Lyon-Genoa motorway would finance a parallel railway route).
According to the new draft text, the rules would apply to all Trans-European Network (TEN) roads—specifically designated international roads linking EU countries—and to vehicles above 12 tonnes and would extend to 3.5 tonne vehicles beginning in 2012. Cities would maintain their right to impose local charges on their roads (such as the London congestion charge).
The rules are not binding but seek to set a common EU standard for Member States who choose to apply the charges.
The measure faces a plenary vote in Strasbourg next month.