They might have their individual issues with road charging but both the UK and Germany broadly go with the flow of EU transport policy.
Also, diesel falls back to near €1/l in Luxembourg, and remains not far off in Austria. The SS51 into the Italian High Dolomites shuts again after a landslide. Disappointing news for the proposed UK-Norway ferry service. Locals give Dutch roads minister a rude surprise.
UK AND GERMANY CHERRY PICK EU ROADS POLICY
Emerging trend for EU-favourite ring fenced revenues for roads
The European Commission has known for some years exactly what it want on roads policy.
The charges would vary by vehicle emissions, location and time of day to incentivise for drivers to buy cleaner vehicles and use the roads at less busy times.
Importantly, at least a portion of the revenues raised would be ring fenced for road building and maintenance.
The two phrases underlying the whole approach are ‘the user pays’ and ‘the polluter pays’.
From the Commission’s point of view this is all a neat way of addressing three major problems: congestion, pollution and chronic underinvestment in roads in many EU countries.
At the same time, the technology developed to run the systems would give European companies a leg up in the rapidly emerging global ITS – Intelligent Transport Systems – market.
The issue is politics. The Germans, for instance, don’t like the GPS idea because of acute sensitivity to any form of state surveillance. British motorists don’t like any form of road charging.
What is interesting though is how both governments are following the Commission’s general approach.
In introducing his controversial ‘foreigner toll’, German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt was careful to use the phrases ‘polluter pays’ and ‘user pays’.
The new vignette varies by emissions and, naturally, only those using the roads pay. The revenues go to a ring fenced fund for investment in roads.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s budget might have hauled back slightly on vehicle emissions – only zero-emissions vehicles will be exempt from the reformed Vehicle Excise Duty come 2017 – but in terms of ring fenced revenues for road building George Osborne was right on the money. By the end of the decade every penny will go into a new Roads Fund.
It is easy to imagine much gnashing of teeth in Brussels yesterday afternoon as another major EU country pre-emptively cherry picked the Commission’s transport policy and effectively cut its wider ambitions off at the knees.
But there could also be quiet satisfaction that no matter how fitfully, things are slowly going the Commission’s way.
For more on the fine detail of the UK Road fund and VED reform see Road Pricing blog.
roundup: LUXEMBOURG. A 2.3% drop in the – nationally regulated – price of diesel sees it fall to near the €1/l mark again. As of today, diesel sells for €1.05 according to wort.lu. Meanwhile, unleaded95 continues to cost €1.276 (and unleaded98, €1.351) pending review. In Austria, which has challenged Luxembourg for low fuel prices in recent months, diesel is €1.071 and unleaded95 €1.228 according to Fuel Prices Europe. ITALY. The SS51 Alemagna State Road to Cortina d‘Ampezzo in the High Dolomites closed again last night after a landslide. Two cars were caught in the incident with one woman climbing a tree to escape the deluge. Judging by the photo in Corriere Alpi it will be sometime before it opens again. SS51 – the main route from the south to access passes such as Pordoi, Giau, Campolungo, Falzarego and Valparola – closed briefly late last month after a similar, though lesser, incident. NETHERLANDS. Infrastructure minister Melanie Schultz got rather more than she bargained for today when formally handing back the N259 to the town of Steenbergen near the Belgian border. Locals unhappy with the noise and disruption of the new A4 – which now bypasses the town, downgrading the N259 – presented her with a metre high carved wooden penis. The new stretch of A4 opened late last year, speeding traffic between Schiphol, Rotterdam and Antwerp.