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Brussels, 27 mars 2006

Sustainable transport - Towards fair and efficient infrastructure charging

This morning the Council of Ministers approved the European Parliament’s amendments on the Eurovignette Directive and thus finalised the new European road charging regime. The new Directive will enter into force following its publication in the Official Journal. This legislation will encourage Member States to introduce and develop tolls and charges which will make it possible to improve the management of commercial freight traffic, reduce pollution and generate funds for investment in new transport infrastructure. “I welcome the adoption of the Directive which has been the subject of tough discussions between the Member States and Parliament. With the possibility of differential tolling and introducing toll “mark-ups”, this new framework represents a major step towards fairer and more efficient transport infrastructure charging”, said Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot, who is responsible for transport policy.

The text amends the 1999 “Eurovignette” Directive,[1] which provides a framework for the levying of tolls and user charges on Europe’s motorways. The aim of the Commission’s 2003 proposal was to increase the efficiency of the operation of Europe’s roads. With the new charging framework, transport users will gradually assume responsibility for the costs generated by their activities, the aim being to reduce pollution and congestion and generate additional funding for investment in transport infrastructure.

The scope of the new road charging Directive is broader. It lays down rules for tolls or user charges on the trans-European network, whereas the existing Directive limited tolls and charges to motorways. It allows Member States to levy tolls and user charges on all other roads as well. The Directive applies to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, rather than only to vehicles over 12 tonnes as at present.

The new Directive represents the first step towards taking account of external costs: it will allow a greater variation in tolls to reflect congestion, and toll variations to reflect the pollution caused by vehicles will be mandatory from 2010. It also makes provision for Member States to be able to increase tolls with a “mark-up” on roads in particularly sensitive mountainous regions. The income from these mark–ups must be used to fund alternative transport infrastructure.

The new Directive also establishes the principles for calculating tolls and limits frequent user discounts, to ensure that they are fair, proportionate, transparent and non-discriminatory. These improvements will reduce obstacles to the free movement of goods and guarantee fair competition between road haulage operators.

The Member States will be required to incorporate this Directive into national law within two years.
For further details see IP/05/1614.

[1] European Parliament and Council Directive 1999/62/EC of 17 June 1999 on the charging of heavy goods vehicles of the use of certain infrastructures - Official Journal No L 187 of 20 July 1999.

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