Road sector hits back at rail on green charges

EU roads association insists higher charges would increase costs without solving problems

The European Road Federation (ERF) has criticised a campaign by EU rail association the Community of European Railways (CER) for the EU to introduce high infrastructure charges on road transport. Forcing road users to pay more, as the rail industry advocates, "makes transport more expensive without solving the problems road transport causes," said ERF head José Papi in the latest issue of newspaper European Voice.

According to Mr Papi, road and rail offer services "so different that the two do not compete and alas cannot substitute for each other". It is clear that road transport causes problems, he wrote. "That there is no simple solution to these problems ought to be clear as well...Modal transfer has a role to play," but "waiting for [this] to solve the problem is an expensive way of waiting for the famous train that never comes".

Mr Papi was responding to CER advertising in the same newspaper stressing that road transport's environmental externalities were much higher than rail's. The rail association last month estimated that road users were responsible for 90% of transport externalities in the EU and called for "action now" to shift passengers and freight from road to rail (ENDS Daily 27 April).

Both organisations are fighting their corner as pressure grows on the EU to introduce transport charges in response to the sector's unsustainability, graphically illustrated in a new European Environment Agency report (ENDS Daily 11 May).

An EU high-level group on infrastructure charging recommended introduction of social marginal cost pricing last September, following a 1998 white paper on transport charging (ENDS Daily 22 July 1998). The group's proposals are shortly due to be considered by the European Parliament and could eventually lead to EU legislation.

Follow Up:
ERF, tel: +32 2 400 0780, and November 1999 infrastructure charging position paper; CER, tel: +32 2 525 9070.

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