The Transport Committee of the European Parliament voted on the inclusion of environmental costs in the HGV toll this week. According to this, it should be allowed to include air and noise pollution as well as congestion charges in the HGV toll. Including climate change and CO2 emission costs respectively, however, failed because of a majority of Conservative and Liberal MEPs.
From an Austrian point of view, the current Directive is unsatisfactory as only infrastructure costs may be included in calculating the HGV toll, not, however, environmental costs. Now, the EU Commission in its new draft Directive does at least provide for including the costs of air pollution, noise and congestion. Prior to the vote, AK EUROPA, in personal discussions, with a Position paper and a voting recommendation, specifically draws the attention of the MEPs of the Transport Committee to the necessity of integrating these external costs.

The most important results of the vote in the Transport Committee:
  • The MEPs reached a majority decision on the inclusion of air pollution, noise and congestion charges in the HGV toll. Thereby one of the minimum conditions set by AK EUROPA concerning external costs was fulfilled. Unfortunately, however, CO2 costs were not included. In particular, MEPs from the European People’s Party and the Liberals decided against this.
  • The option of a toll surcharge of up to 25 % is already available for sensible mountain regions. If it was up to the Transport Committee in the European Parliament, the environmental costs could now be fully charged to this increased toll. The proposal of the Directive originally only provided for the inclusion of the external costs, which exceed the mountain region surcharge. AK EUROPA was thereby able to push through one of its most important demands.
  • Capping in case of offsetting environmental costs is still intended, has, however, again been reduced by the European Parliament in the category of air pollution. As a result, the new Directive proposal is still a far cry from the cost transparency of external costs. It should be possible to use the income generated by the toll for reducing environmental damages, congestion and for promoting sustainable mobility.
In spite of the caps for the external costs and the refusal to include CO2 emissions, the voted for Directive proposal went obviously too far for the European People’s Party: most of its MEPs rejected the report at the final vote. Nevertheless, the resolution was accepted with a clear majority of 32 to 14 votes. The adoption of the Eurovignette report in the Plenum of the European Parliament has been scheduled for March 2009.

Compared to the European Parliament, different positions have emerged in the European Parliament. Among others, the appropriation of the toll income is a thorn in the side of the Council. Therefore, it is not expected that Council and Parliament will reach an agreement in the 1st Reading. One has to reckon with a 2nd Reading in the European Parliament.

For further information:

AK position paper on the Eurovignette Directive