EU Member States will in future have the right to apply the polluter-pays principle when setting road tolls on heavy goods vehicles. They will be able to levy charges for external costs and vary tariffs in order to ease congestion during peak hours and to encourage fleet renewal. Earmarking of revenues for transport infrastructure was the key point of an informal deal reached on Monday evening between Parliament and Council representatives on the revised Eurovignette directive.
A compromise was hammered out on the contentious issue of earmarking toll revenues. "We now have a strong commitment from the Member States to reinvest the money in sustainable transport and spend at least 15% on TEN-T [Transeuropean Transport Network] projects", said Parliament's rapporteur Said El Khadraoui (S&D, BE), reporting back to the Transport Committee on Tuesday.
In particular in mountain areas, where extra mark-ups may be added to infrastructure and external costs for older lorries with engines of Euro class 0, 1, 2 and 3 (starting in 2015), all revenue will have to be spent on financing TEN-T infrastructure projects situated on the same TEN corridor.
Financing sustainable transport
But the most important progress, according to Mr El Khadraoui, has been made on the transparency of revenues and investment, based on the ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) model. Member States will have to report back to the Commission on a regular basis on the various types of toll income, variations applied and how they have invested the money. This could prompt a fruitful public debate on transport infrastructure, financing and management at Member State level.
Revenue-neutral variation in congested areas
To allow better traffic management without generating extra revenues, toll variations will be allowed of up to 175% in congested areas, with top tariffs collected during a maximum of 5 peak hours per day and lower tariffs applying the rest of the time. For the benefit of users, Parliament's negotiating team successfully pushed for a simple, clear and interoperable system and insisted that a User Guide be issued.
Deal still to be endorsed by full Parliament and Council
"This is not the end of the road", said Mr El Khadraoui, "but it's an important step forward. I hope that Parliament can support the deal so that Member States can make the best use of the directive." Parliament's plenary vote is scheduled on 7 June.
On behalf of the EPP group, Mathieu Grosch (BE) said he was "satisfied" with the result, especially since there had been a serious risk of "ending up with nothing". Mandatory interoperability of new electronic toll collection tools and partial earmarking of revenue are the main features for the ALDE group, added Dirk Sterckx (BE) whereas Eva Lichtenberger regretted that Council has again blocked sustainability.
In the chair: Brian SIMPSON (S&D, UK)