The European Commission published its ‘mobility package’ for road transport on 31 May 2017. The package includes a Communication from the European Commission and eight legislative proposals, including the revision of the Eurovignette Directive, the introduction of a European electronic toll system, new rules for driving and rest periods for drivers, more flexible rules for cabotage and a package of social measures to enhance protection for employees in the transport sector. The Port of Rotterdam very much welcomes the revision of the Eurovignette Directive, in particular with regard to the internalisation of external costs of transport.
The Commission's proposal for a directive contains a set of common European principles which must be met by Member States that already apply a toll system. Road charging should be based on distance (tolls) rather than on time (vignettes), as is currently the case in some Member States. The Commission accordingly wants to phase out the existing toll vignettes. One new element in the proposal is the linking of a kilometre-based charge to CO₂ emissions. Vehicles with higher CO₂ emissions would therefore pay more, while low emission vehicles would receive a 75% discount. The European Commission is looking to reduce CO₂ emissions by 1.2 percent with its plans and raise 60 billion euros for investment in new infrastructure.
A preliminary scan of this proposal reveals that internalisation of external costs such as noise and air pollution (and congestion) will become possible in places where heavy road transport has a major impact, for example on local residents.
The Port of Rotterdam supports the Commission’s proposal for CO₂ charging in general, but underlines that charging only applies to Member States that have already introduced a form of road charging or tolls. Moreover, road charging is not obligatory, whereas charges for the use of rail infrastructure for example are mandatory in member states. In order to achieve a level playing field between all modes of transport, the internalisation of external costs through infrastructure charging should apply to all modes of transport in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle. CO₂ charging could be a first step in the externalisation of all external costs, taking into account climate change costs of transport and moving transport towards to most sustainable modes and lower emission alternatives.
See also the response prepared by the Port of Rotterdam to the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility, in which the new proposals for road charging was already announced.