At the Engineer’s 8th Annual Road User Charging Summit in Brussels, some of the world's leading road experts discussed innovative, profitable, financially robust and environmentally friendly RUC schemes.
"We are here to talk about road congestion," said Keith Mortimer, Chairman of ITS UK Road User Charging Interest Group, "but we're also talking about the economy, the environment, our quality of life, and even health issues." In a recent study, he reported, almost 60% of respondents said they felt road congestion had negatively affected their health. "We know about the money we are wasting; road congestion costs each and every one of us about €600 per year, in terms of lost time and productivity, and petrol. Around the world, each year, we burn an extra 17.7 billion litres of fuel in traffic jams, and the resulting emissions can be doing no good to the environment."
Mortimer said GNSS-based technologies are playing an important role in the current shift away from time-based charging schemes, where users buy a pass that is valid for a certain amount of time, towards distance-based schemes, where users pay for the distance they have actually travelled.
Key roles for the EU and industry
This year’s Road User Charging Summit featured presentations by public authorities, policy makers, suppliers and operators, including project updates from the Irish National Roads Authority, Transport for London, Sweden's Port Karlshamm, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Belgian Ministry of Finance. Issues on the table included interoperability, cross-border co-operation and mobility, and internalisation of external transport costs.
Another highlight was an update from the European Commission, detailing recent and upcoming policy moves affecting RUC. Rémi Mayet of the Commission's DG MOVE placed RUC firmly in the wider context of 'smarter', decarbonised transport. "The Commission's upcoming White Paper on the Future of Transport will detail the EU's transport policy for the next 10 years," he said, "and it will provide a look ahead to what comes after that. In the road sector, discussions on the 'Eurovignette' proposal will continue and, once the proposal is adopted, this will firmly anchor into EU law the principle of internalising the external costs of transport."
What is the Eurovignette?
By laying down common rules on how EU states can charge heavy goods vehicles for using the road network, the Eurovignette directive aims to ensure that the cost of road usage better reflects its true impact on society and the environment, establishing the principle of 'the user pays' and 'the polluter pays'. The aim is also to shift freight away from roads onto other less-polluting modes of transport such as rail and waterways.
Representing industry, Thomas Desseilles from Siemens discussed some of the challenges and benefits for cities, suppliers and operators of charging schemes such as London's city congestion charging, distance-based charging in Slovakia, and integrated city tolling and lorry road user charging schemes.
A key concern is the development of equipment that will be compatible with a variety of charging schemes in different parts of Europe.
"Our onboard units will have to encompass mobile telephony, GPS and GPRS, DSRC microwave systems and, of course, they must be Galileo and EGNOS compatible," said Desseilles.
Hands-on approach for GSA
The event culminated with an afternoon session that featured an exchange of ideas and recommendations, led by the GSA's Fiammetta Diani. "One of the key benefits of GNSS-based charging schemes is their flexibility," she said," but they are also extremely cost-efficient. And we are already seeing the market moving in this direction."
GNSS and EGNOS for France’s Eco Tax tolling scheme
The French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing has announced that the Ecomouv consortium has been awarded the Eco Tax Heavy Goods Vehicle project. "This is big news for GNSS and EGNOS in road pricing," says the GSA’s Fiammetta Diani. "The Eco Tax scheme will be GNSS-based and will cover 15 000 kilometres of roads, making it one of the largest tolling schemes in Europe, and, crucially, the proposed technology will be EGNOS enabled. This is a very important achievement for EGNOS that will drastically raise the number of early adopters in road tolling and create a benchmark for similar schemes in the future."
Diani says that research conducted under the EU R&D Framework Programmes, as well as independent studies managed by the GSA, show that the European satellite navigation systems EGNOS and Galileo can help meet the demand for more efficient personal and freight mobility. Events like the Road User Charging Summit represent key opportunities for a variety of players to come together and exchange views on how to make the most of these important tools.