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More Alpine protection against transit traffic

Transit traffic: CIPRA representatives of all Alpine countries demand more binding rules.

The transport ministries of the EU countries will negotiate more binding rules for transit traffic at the beginning of June 2020. CIPRA representatives from all the Alpine countries are calling for an improvement in the European infrastructure costs directive for truck transport.

The CIPRA organisations formulated their general demands on transit traffic at the end of May 2020 with the aim of to promoting the interests of people and nature in the Alpine region and advancing the protection of the Alps along the transit axes. Now they are also submitting their specific demands for improving the infrastructure costs directive to national environment, transport and health ministers.

Toothless regulation

As early as 1993, the EU issued the “Eurovignette Directive”, also known as the infrastructure costs directive. This regulates the voluntary collection of motorway tolls for commercial vehicles. Trucks should bear part of the infrastructure costs. Even in subsequent revisions of the directive, no account was taken of environmental costs, i.e. compensation for the damage that heavy goods traffic causes to human health and the environment. To date, these external costs have not been included, despite a further revision of the regulation in 2006. For years now, lorries have been driving too cheaply compared with other modes of transport, and charges have been limited to vehicles over 12 tonnes gross weight.

Europe-wide negotiations

In 2017, the EU Commission presented a new draft that includes external costs and reduces the weight limit to 3.5 tonnes. The European Parliament added to the 2018 draft, calling for a mandatory transition to toll systems based upon kilometres actually driven. The amount of the toll is to be based on CO2 emission classes. National transport ministers were unable to reach agreement by the end of 2019: Germany was opposed to lower weight limits, while Italy and the Netherlands considered the surcharges for external costs such as air pollution and noise to be too high. The next negotiations will take place at the beginning of June 2020.

Clear demands

CIPRA in principle supports the revision of the infrastructure costs directive in order to reduce the volume of road traffic and achieve the goal of climate neutrality, as co-managing director Kaspar Schuler emphasises: “We also welcome the fact that the common rules should now apply to commercial vehicles of 3.5 tonnes and above”. Schuler also points out, however, that all eight signatory states of the Alpine Convention – including Germany and Italy – committed themselves to the principles of the infrastructure costs directive more than 20 years ago, so what is currently being hotly debated would de facto have long been mandatory for some EU countries. CIPRA is therefore focusing on three demands to improve the infrastructure costs directive:

  1. The directive must include all external costs as a basis for calculation.
  2. The planned permissibility of modal shift tolls in sensitive areas such as the Alps or densely populated regions must  be maintained.
  3. Tolls must be levied as a function of the number of kilometres travelled.

Further information:

www.cipra.org/de/themen/alpenpolitik/brennpunkt-transit/ (de, fr, it, sl)