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Brussels, 13 October 2010

Review of the Directive on charging Heavy Goods Vehicles – "Eurovignette Directive"- Questions and Answers

What is the Directive on charging heavy goods vehicles that the Commission proposed to revise?

The "Eurovignette" Directive on charging heavy goods vehicles for the use of infrastructure was originally adopted in 1999. It provides a framework for the levying of road charges on heavy goods vehicles for using the roads that are part of the trans-European network. The Directive authorises, but does not oblige, Member States to levy ‘user charges’ (time-based charges, eg per day, per week, per year) or tolls (distance-based charges e.g. per kilometre) on lorries above 3.5 tonnes - small lorries - provided that it does not result in any discrimination and that the charges are set at a level which does not exceed the recovery of costs of which are strictly necessary to maintain and replace the road infrastructure. The original aim of the Directive was to preserve the smooth functioning of the internal market – preventing any abusive and discriminatory charging by Member States (eg Member States imposing higher charges on lorries from other Member States). 11 Member States are currently applying tolls and 10 apply user charges, out of which 2 are considering to replace their user charges by tolls as shown by the attached map.

What is the problem with the current Directive?

The current "Eurovignette" Directive allows Member States to set tolls at levels required to maintain and replace infrastructure. It prohibits the recovery of other costs, e.g. the so-called external costs such as air pollution and noise costs. These are costs that road users generate but do not pay for although they must be borne by citizens, society at large and therefore tax payers. In 2008 the Commission prepared a strategy the "Greening Transport Package" to extend the "user pays" principle to the polluter pays principle i.e. to allow for the internalisation of the external costs across all modes of transport - and ensure what economists call fair and efficient pricing. Included in that package was a proposal to revise the "Eurovignette Directive" to allow for the inclusion of air and noise pollution costs in the calculation of tolls. By giving clearer price signals to road users, they will change and adapt their travel behaviour by better planning their transport operations, choosing to drive less polluting vehicles and avoiding driving on congested roads sections during peak periods. The current Directive specifically prevents the inclusion of external costs in the toll rates and that is why it needs to be updated and revised.

What are the main elements of the Commission proposal and how would it solve the problem?

The Commission's proposals to revise the Eurovignette Directive:

1. Would allow Member States to calculate tolls based not only on infrastructure costs but also the cost of traffic-based air pollution and noise.

2. A wider differentiation of toll rates will also be allowed to better manage traffic and reduce congestion.

The external cost charge would represent 3-4 ct/km depending on the Euro class of the vehicle, the location of the roads and the level of congestion. The charge will have to be collected by the electronic systems foreseen to be fully interoperable at EU level by 2012 and a receipt clearly stating the amount of the external cost charge will be given to the hauliers so that they can pass on the cost to their clients.

3. The revenue will be used to finance investments into making transport more sustainable such as research and development into clean vehicle technologies, construction of alternative transport infrastructure, reduction of pollution at source.

The new Directive will widen the tool box at Member States' disposal to reduce environmental damage, congestion, fuel consumption and hence emissions of CO2. The proposed Directive is therefore a contribution to the climate change strategy.

What happens next?

Member States meeting in the Transport Council on October 15 in Luxembourg will discuss the Eurovignette Directive with a view to adopting a political agreement on Friday Oct 15th.

The European Parliament already completed its first reading in March 2009.


How and where tolls are levied in practice?

About 30,000 km of motorways are current tolled in Europe. About half of these are in the TEN-T network and therefore fall in the scope of the "Eurovignette" Directive. Under the revised Directive, which also extends the scope of the old Directive, all motorways should be covered. This is a substantial increase with all of Europe's 30,000 km of tolled motorway covered.

Currently, existing toll rates vary typically between 15 and 25 cent per kilometre depending on the type of lorry and the network. The new Directive would de facto authorise an increase of toll rates, if Member States decide to do so, of around 20-30%.

Tolls are currently collected either at tollbooths where the lorries has to stop or through electronic means via "on board units" that transmit data from the vehicles to special receivers on the road. A separate Directive, Directive 2004/52/EC on electronic toll services, ensures the technical and contractual interoperability at EU level of such electronic toll systems as from the end of 2012 (for heavy good vehicles).

What is the Eurovignette?

This piece of legislation is often known by stakeholders as the "Eurovignette" Directive. But Eurovignette is in fact the name of a time-based road user charging scheme that is jointly operated by Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Sweden. The Eurovignette was also the name of the sticker (or vignette) that the users of this scheme had to attach to the windscreens of their vehicles. However, since the beginning of 2008 the Eurovignette is an electronic system and physical vignettes are no longer printed. There are other Member States that operate their own national vignette systems.

What rules apply outside the trans-European network and motorways?

It is important to remember that Member States can of course introduce road charges also on roads that are outside the scope of this Directive. In that case it is for individual Member States to decide what level of charge they introduce which are therefore not ruled by the Directive.

It is only if road charges are introduced for lorries on roads that are within the scope of this Directive that the rules of the Directive have to be followed whereas outside the scope these rules do not apply.

Urban areas in particular are outside the scope of the Directive due to the subsidiarity principle. Therefore urban congestion charging schemes such as those implemented in London and Stockholm are not covered by the Directive. For all the roads not covered by the Directive General Treaty principles including proportionality and non discrimination still have to be observed, though.

History of the Directive on charging heavy goods vehicles

1993: Adoption of Council Directive 93/89/EEC to set a minimum annual tax level, cap the user charges and authorise tolls based on infrastructure costs. The Directive was then annulled in 1995 by the Court of Justice at the request of the European Parliament who was wrongly excluded from the decision making process.

1999: Adoption of Directive 1999/62/EC, this time adopted in co-decision by the European Parliament and the Council, and repeating to a large extent the substance of the previous Directive. The Directive confirms the "user pay principle" as a one of the guiding principle of the transport policy.

2006: Adoption of Directive 2006/38/EC amending Directive 1999/62/EC in order to allow toll variation and to allow a mark-up added on tolls in exceptional cases to finance trans-European network projects in mountain areas. The mark-up is currently used to co-finance the construction of the Brenner rail basis tunnel.

2008: Within a wider "Greening Transport Package" adopted in July 2008 , the Commission proposed to extend the user pays principle to the polluter pays principle. A proposal is adopted to allow the inclusion of air and noise pollution costs in the calculation of tolls (proposal to revise the Eurovignette Directive).

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