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Charging: interoperable electronic fee collection systems in Europe
This Communication aims to define a Community strategy for the convergence of interoperable electronic fee collection systems to facilitate traffic flow and the payment of fees, in particular for subscribers, heavy goods vehicles and long distance coaches.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 21 December 1998 on interoperable electronic fee collection systems in Europe [COM(1998) 795 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Electronic Fee Collection (EFC) systems offer the possibility of charging road vehicles in a more flexible way and allow infrastructure charging policies to be implemented. It is vital for such systems to be interoperable across national borders to avoid creating new obstacles to traffic flow in Europe. Interoperability should therefore enable users to travel throughout the Union without charging procedures changing from one country to another and without having to install extra equipment to access other charging zones. This does not mean there would be one single supplier but that there should be sufficient technical compatibility between different systems so that paying charges on different stretches of road in the Union would be a seamless operation. Interoperability is, therefore, an important factor from the viewpoint of the single market, transport policy and the development of the information society.
This Communication examines the obstacles to interoperable electronic fee collection systems and puts forward certain recommendations for arriving at an appropriate level of interoperability on a European scale.
Issues to be resolved
The first major issue studied is technical interoperability. Existing motorway EFC systems make use of Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) between fixed roadside equipment and vehicles. Another type of system is based on satellite location (Global Navigation Satellite System) (GNSS) and mobile telephone technology (GSM).
The first step towards interoperability should be the definition of a common minimum level of functionality to enable authorised subscribers to pay fees using the same method of payment and the same equipment anywhere on the network of operators belonging to the system.
The second major issue is contractual interoperability. The existence of interoperable equipment needs to be accompanied by contractual agreements between infrastructure operators. The same concept of a common minimum level of functionality should therefore be applied.
In this context, the approach recommended in the Communication suggests that EU projects need to involve closer cooperation with operators on the definition of a minimum common functionality taking into account, as a first priority, cross border traffic of heavy goods vehicles and long distance coaches. The definition of a minimum common functionality should form the basis for a draft agreement between operators wishing to achieve interoperability.
European and national standardisation bodies should, for their part, finalise work on the standardisation of the DSRC link and other systems such as those that use satellite location and cellular telephone communication.
A very important issue is the treatment of "non-equipped users", that is, drivers who have no equipment and those who have equipment which is not compatible with the system in the motorway concession area in which they are travelling.
With regard to this, the Communication recalls that within the framework of Community legislation, each country should be free to implement its own choice of options for the treatment of non-equipped users, according to its particular national characteristics, in particular those of the road network and traffic.
As for the issue of classification, a common set of vehicle characteristics needs to be agreed which can be used for classification, as electronic fee collection systems need to recognise vehicle categories in order to apply the tariff for the use of the tolled road.
As a consequence, a common set of declared parameters needs to be defined during negotiations between operators.
As for the issues linked to the enforcement of tolling, the Commission will study the establishment of a general framework at EU level for the prosecution of EFC violations across national borders, to be used either as a basis for or to complement bilateral agreements. National authorities, for their part, need to be encouraged to establish effective links between toll enforcing administrations or operators and national registration databases to facilitate cross-border enforcement.
The protection of personal data and system security may be another major obstacle to achieving interoperability between systems. According to the approach chosen by the Commission, the presumption should be that general rules on information security and numerical data protection must be applied and will be sufficient unless there is a convincing case otherwise. National authorities and operators must, however, be encouraged to examine whether any additional measures are necessary.
Given the present differences in existing technologies in the different Member States, a strategy for convergence comprising several stages must be envisaged prior to interoperability. These successive stages will allow interoperability to be guaranteed for a growing number of functions and the above-mentioned issues to be progressively overcome.
Actions to be carried out
In this context, this Communication defines the main actions of the first phase (1998 to 2000) that the Commission will carry out with Member States, local and regional authorities, operators and standardisation bodies.
These actions can be summarised as follows:
- to define and agree a common minimum level of functionality for equipment at European level;
- to enable these functions to be performed, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) should complete its work on electronic fee collection and define, validate and adopt those standards that are still necessary in the area of short range radio communications (DSRC) and any other necessary areas;
- the Commission will help the interested parties to complete work on contractual interoperability;
- the Commission will explore the necessary means for facilitating cross-border enforcement while guaranteeing the protection of personal data and privacy;
- the Commission will also cooperate on the introduction of urban tolls, so as to ensure compatibility between this and inter-urban systems.
The Commission will draw up proposals based on this approach and will put forward proposals for actions for subsequent phases on the basis of the results obtained in the first phase.