France to introduce vignettes for HGVs to raise funds for infrastructure projects

Earlier this month, the French Infrastructure Orientation Council published its recommendations for the development of the country’s transport network over the next 20 years. The report presents the government with a choice of three spending scenarios for the implementation of major infrastructure projects, with costs ranging from €48bn to €80bn. The three scenarios seek to address four priorities, improve the quality of networks; improve urban transport and combat traffic congestion and pollution; ensure better access to mobility for medium-sized towns and cities; and develop efficient freight infrastructure and services.

The most economical scenario is Scenario 1 which avoids allocating significant additional resources to transport projects and basically corresponds to maintaining the existing budget. It is therefore considered to do little to alleviate the investment backlog on the conventional rail network and decongest bottlenecks. Moreover, given the lack of additional resources allocated, this scenario also suggests that major projects could be paused for at least 5-10 years, pushing the completion of regional high-speed links far into the future.

Scenario 2, on the other hand, considers investments of €60bn over 20 years to be dedicated to the modernisation of existing infrastructure and the ‘improvement of daily mobility’, while still providing sufficient funding to advance the initial stages of major new-build projects. The Board is in favour of this scenario, according to sources.

Scenario 3 is even more ambitious and would accelerate the measures in Scenario 2 albeit at significantly higher cost. This option would require an investment of around €80bn over two years. The Council suggested that injecting more capacity at key rail hubs would be a priority in all three scenarios.

In the past, the Infrastructure Orientation Council has been promising infrastructure projects without putting forward proposals on how to finance them, resulting in these projects being pushed back indefinitely. However, for the financing of the infrastructure projects proposed in the latest report, the Council is calling for an increase in the rate of domestic consumption tax on energy products (TICPE). The TICPE duty is levied on transport vehicles of 7.5 tonnes and over across the entire EU.  In addition, the Council calls for the introduction of vignettes for all domestic and foreign trucks and vans, regardless of their size. Currently, HGVs drivers can use alternative non-toll routes to avoid the tolls on motorways in France.

It comes as no surprise that the reactions of the road freight organisations to these financing proposals have been negative, criticising the proposals for adding an additional burden on road freight users, even though they only account for 5% of the all road use. These organisations claim that the measures, along with the fact that France currently has one of the highest diesel prices in Europe, will seriously affect the competitiveness of French road haulage companies.

By the end of February, the French Minister of Transport should announce the decision based on the recommendations of the Orientation Council, which will then be transposed into law by April.  French road haulage companies won’t have to wait long to find out whether the mobilisation of revenue for the new infrastructure projects will come through them.

Source: Transport Intelligence, February 12, 2018

Author: Violeta Keckarovska


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