Direct User Charging
In this essay we would like to discuss an European transport issue. The last number of years we are seeing an revolutionary shift of cost bearing with the making of infrastructure. In the traditional concept it was normal that the government was paying the infrastructure with the incoming taxes. Nowadays we see a trend that the governments are charging road users directly for the use and making of the road infrastructure. This appears mainly two different ways: paying toll or direct user charging in congestion zones. The last one is a specific trend in big European city’s. This two manners are relatively new for the most European citizens, but though a manner applied more often every year. Thinking about this trend questions arise like: why are they doing this? What are the for and against? What do they want to achieve with this system? We will end this report with an conclusions, hopefully, answering all these questions.
§ 1: Congestion Charging Zone’s
As people drive into a major city like: London, Stockholm, Trondheim or Rome people had to realize it wasn’t much fun anymore to drive in a major city. Traffic jams and a lot of waiting, waiting and waiting. As the problem grew city’s started to realize that this problem couldn’t last much longer anymore because the traffic was failing because of it’s own success. Experts say: “If the problem is not handled adequately, car traffic will increase by 7,5% coming years”. At peak times (during rush-hour) around 50.000 vehicles an hour are heading in or out of central London. That’s much more then the central infrastructure can handle: saturation point has been reached at the moment already. Realizing people wouldn’t let their car at home if you would ask them, city’s hit road users as hard as they could: in their wallet. People have to pay if they want to get into the busy city center. Expected was that people would chose a lot of alternative transport (busses, metro’s, trains and taxi’s). They were right: congestion went down with 30%. London, one of the leading city’s solving this problem, created a plan witch was to happen on the 17th of February 2001. An area of 22 square kilometers was set out and marked with a big C. This meant this area was part of the London Central Congestion Charging Zone. When you trespass this sign (Monday’s to Fridays from 7.00 -1830) with your motorized vehicle you will be charged £ 5,00. The planned revenue for this measure was £ 60.000.000,-. All the money collected with this measure are being used to improve London’s infrastructure and public transport. Reasons, according to London’s major, why this plan was introduced you will find below. It’s presented in seven main statements: Reducing traffic congestion; Making radical improvements on the London bus services; Better integration of the National Rail system to London’s transport system; Increasing the overall capacity of London’s transport system; Improving journey times and making them more reliable; Improving the distribution of goods and services; Improving the accessibility of London’s transport systems. As far as we can overview the results of the taken measures, we can say it has been quite a success. Car movements has been reduced with 30%. Traffic delays have been falling from 2.3 min/km to 1.7 min/km. Taxi and bus movements have been grown by 20%. We can see people are choosing for alternative manners of transport. The traffic which necessarily has to go into the congestion zone will pay for it anyway. European city’s (planning to) using systems similar like this: Prague, Edinburgh, London, Trondheim, Rome and Stockholm
§ 2: Toll Motorways: conquering Europe
The last decade we are seeing a European shift of financing the European infrastructure. More and more we are seeing citizens, unknown of the why’s, paying toll for using motorways. In the day’s of the ‘80s it was considered normal that people pay taxes and governments are paying the infrastructure with the received taxes. Nowadays you are still paying taxes, but the government is lesser willingly to pay for the infrastructure. We are seeing a shift from indirect user charging to direct user charging, that means users a paying and non-users are not. Toll roads now account for approximately 40% of the West-European motorway network Mainly in Southern Europe tolls are a significant form of financing. Eight European country’s are using a toll system: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Norway and since a few months England (future plans in Germany). One of the most successful toll motorway network we can find in France. The motorways financed by the government is for a regional purpose. The big highway’s (Payage) are being build by a government controlled company called Cofiroute. This company invests in building roads and earning the costs back by asking tolls of their users. The system paid it success to it’s customers which can reach their destiny quicker, better and more reliable. The toll system used in Italy and Portugal is comparable to the one used in France. A different story like the French or Italian is the Spanish toll ways. In comparison to the other two the Spanish toll ways are totally privately funded and owned. These roadways co-exists with the network of free public expressways provided by the Spanish government. The size of the Spanish network is not comparable to the French because it is just under a third of it’s big neighbor. An important (exceptional) rule in the Spanish law is the limitation on a maximum concession period of only 50 years! A problem at the moment are the manners of tolling in Europe. All the country’s are using different manners of tolling. The technological ways for tolling are numerous but not one system is perfect. The system advised by the European Commission is the German MAUT system which is working on the Global Positioning System provided with the help of satellites. A big problem on the moment is that this system doesn’t work perfect yet. German plans for tolling on HGV vehicles are delayed till 2005 because of it’s system failure. Another problem is that European country’s are not making an European policy but a national policy. The globalization of the European market brings a lot of inter-European-national transport with it. When the system will start you will have to have five different boxes in your truck for five different country’s. You will receive five different bills witch you have to pay to five different country’s. This system brings a lot of protests with it.
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