BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Road charging should play a bigger role in managing Europe’s booming transport industry, European Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said on Wednesday as he outlined EU transport priorities for the next decade.
“The causer of pollution should pay an extra price,” Tajani told reporters as he launched a consultation on European Union transport policy from 2010. “Money should not flow generally into national budgets, but should be earmarked and ring-fenced for transport infrastructure.”
The European Commission laid out 6 main transport challenges to be tackled in the coming decade: the aging population, increasing immigration, growing greenhouse gas emissions, changing energy resources, globalisation and urbanization.
But it did not attempt to provide solutions, and environment groups said it had missed an opportunity for bold action on transport emissions, which have risen 35 percent since 1990 and canceled out improvements from EU manufacturing and power generation.
The Commission highlighted the current lack of economic incentives for citizens and businesses to choose quieter, safer or greener transport and said it was time for a change.
It noted the need for road charges that rise during peak hours and reduce for off-peak travelers.
“Europe will have to live with these choices for a long time — it is therefore essential that they are guided by correct price signals,” said a Commission report.
European President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned emissions from transport will be tackled soon, but member states are still wrangling over laws to allow countries to charge lorries for the damage they do to infrastructure, air quality and human health.
Mountainous countries such as Germany and Austria with many people living in narrow valleys want hauliers to pay for the damage they do as they rumble through, but are opposed by outlying states like Spain that rely heavily on road freight.
The laws are part of a controversial proposal dubbed “Eurovignette.”
Environment group T&E said road pricing schemes could help deal with reduced investment in green infrastructure during the economic downturn, but said the Commission paper did not go far enough.
“If this is the strategy for fixing rapidly growing pollution, congestion and accidents caused by transport, then we have a big problem — it doesn’t even scratch the surface,” said T&E director Jos Dings.
“The question of managing demand for transport is not mentioned,” he added.
Editing by James Jukwey