Charging for the use of roads and thoroughfares is an ancient concept that is still in use.
Road pricing comes in several forms. These include taxes primarily aimed at generating revenue, or charges that mainly focus on changing drivers’ behaviour. Pricing schemes can be appealing in their simplicity to municipal authorities as they act as a corrective on transport demand without requiring any increase in the flexibility of supply.
In Europe, road pricing has begun to be applied not only on motorways and main roads, but also in large cities. Under EU law, tolls must be applied equally to citizens of all member states, regardless of their residence. Further, the income earned from the charges has to be reinvested in transport.
A number of European member states apply road pricing to motorways or main roads, which charge based on a variety of criteria. These can include one or a combination of such factors as the distance travelled on the toll road; the vehicle type, the weight or number of axles, the size; or the vehicle’s emissions levels.
While road charging schemes are attractive to municipalities, the automobile industry sees them as last resorts when improved traffic management techniques and better vehicle technologies have demonstrably not succeeded in meeting set objectives.