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EU’s New Road Charging Policy: A Push Towards Greener Transport

EU’s New Road Charging Policy: A Push Towards Greener Transport
photo: GATX Rail Europe / Public domain/GATX
16 / 12 / 2023

The European Union is actively implementing the revised “Eurovignette Directive,” which came into force in March 2022, marking a significant shift towards sustainable transport in line with the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement.

This directive introduces a comprehensive framework aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of road transportation, a critical move in combating climate change. It emphasizes key objectives such as phasing out time-based fees for goods vehicles, imposing mandatory fees for external costs on transit routes, pricing differentiation based on CO2 emissions, and addressing congestion issues. By March 2024, EU member states are required to adjust road charging rates following vehicles’ CO2 emission classes, reinforcing the "polluter pays" principle.

GATX Rail Europe / Public domain

Germany, the EU’s largest member state and a central transit hub, is spearheading these changes by planning to implement maximum permissible road tolls based on emissions starting December 2023. This increase, calculated at 200 euros per ton of CO2 emitted, is poised to double current toll charges. The revenue generated is earmarked for co-financing both rail and road infrastructure. This move has sparked intense debates among various stakeholders in the supply chain, raising questions about who will bear the increased costs: producers, logistics companies, or end consumers. Meanwhile, Austria and other nations with established national tolling systems for heavy goods vehicles are planning more gradual increases.

The directive's implementation varies among member states, particularly those still using time-based vignettes or operating major transit routes through concessionaires. Countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, and Lithuania are either undergoing or contemplating a shift from their current vignette systems. Those with concessionary arrangements have the flexibility to strategize their next steps as concession agreements approach their end or require revision. In this evolving scenario, GATX Rail Europe is advocating for a shift to rail transportation, emphasizing its environmental benefits.

Jörg Nowaczyk, CCO of GATX Rail Europe, highlights that rail is inherently green, offering a sustainable alternative regardless of transport volume, saying, "Rail remains the most environmentally friendly transport mode. We don’t need emission classes for rail for transport pricing—rail is green, whether you transport one container or thousands."

As Europe faces increasing road transport costs and uncertainties, GATX positions itself as a proactive supporter for businesses aiming to transition to more eco-friendly transport modes, thereby contributing positively to the circular economy and setting a precedent in sustainable practices.