News 28 May 2017

Europe on the Move: a step in the right direction but does it reach far enough?

The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) welcomes yesterday’s publication of a set of mobility initiatives by the European Commission. Yet the Commission's proposal falls short of the 2011 Transport White Paper's ambition. For fair intermodal competition we need more, and we need it quickly: distance-based road charging (tolling) everywhere in Europe.

CER welcomes the European Commission's initiative to further develop road charging rules in Europe with its proposal amending Directive 1992/62 (so-called Eurovignette), in particular the calls to 

  • phase out time-based road charging (vignettes) for trucks, but also for cars and coaches,
  • remove strict charging caps for externalities such as air pollution and noise.

This may encourage Member States to charge more accurately for the social cost of road use.

Regrettably, however, the Commission's proposal published yesterday falls short of the 2011 Transport White Paper's ambition: the internalisation of external costs, including wear and tear, should be mandatory by 2020. It is high time to move towards that goal.

In the Commission's 2016 public consultation on the directive's review, 67% of stakeholders supported mandatory distance-based charging for heavy goods vehicles, and 56% for all goods vehicles. It will now remain for the European Parliament and the Council to raise ambition accordingly.

Distance-based infrastructure charging on roads is a pre-condition for fair competition with rail. In line with EU law, railways already pay distance-based track access charges everywhere in the EU. By contrast, even for major roads, charges (time-based vignettes or distance-based tolls) are currently only applied on about 20-25% of the network in Europe.

Moreover, a significant part of external-cost road charging revenue should be earmarked for developing sustainable transport modes, to help reduce the overall externalities of transport. This will help achieve major EU policy objectives, e.g. the 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2030.

CER is committed to continue engaging with EU policymakers, most imminently with the European Parliament, to help bring the Commission’s initiatives even more in line with the Transport White Paper's ambition and with the goal of fair competition between transport modes.

CER Executive Director Libor Lochman said: “European railways acknowledge the positive elements in the Commission's proposal. Phasing out time-based road charging is an excellent first step. However, to come closer to the transport White Paper targets, we need more, and we need it quickly: fair distance-based road charging everywhere in Europe. Only then can railways and other sustainable modes fully realize their potential to make European transport greener.”