Written by Susanne Pillath,
Road charges are fees for the use of a particular road network or section of road. Since the 1990s, the focus of European transport policy has shifted from the application of road pricing purely as a means to generate revenue towards the use of charges as an instrument against pollution and congestion. Charging for road infrastructure is an option to implement basic principles of EU policy such as the ‘user-pays principle’ or the ‘polluter-pays principle’. It can serve different functions such as financing, managing traffic flow or making all costs perceptible so as to influence the behaviour of road users.
As the transport of goods is linked with the functioning of the Single Market, the charging of heavy goods vehicles is regulated at European level. In contrast, there is no regulation at European level on the road charging of private vehicles, though Member States establishing such schemes are obliged to apply the basic principles of the Treaties, in particular the principles of proportionality and of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality.
As a consequence of the regulation at national level, many different charging schemes are applied in the EU. These vary, principally according to the way they are levied: distance-based schemes levied by means of tolls, or time-based schemes, levied using vignettes. All schemes are associated with considerable levying costs. Technological developments such as electronic charging can offer opportunities to reduce these costs. However, lack of interoperability between the various systems generates additional costs and hindrances for European mobility.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Road charges for private vehicles in the EU‘.