Europe to standardise road toll systems

Drivers will in future be able to pay road tolls incurred throughout the European Union to a single service provider, following a move that clears the way for introduction of a standard system.

The European Commission has adopted a decision setting out the essential technical specifications and requirements needed to launch a European Electronic Toll Service (EETS). EETS will be made available on all EU infrastructures where tolls can be paid using on-board equipment, including motorways, tunnels and bridges.

By enabling road users to pay all their tolls under one subscription contract, with a single on-board unit, EETS is expected to reduce cash transactions at toll stations and improve traffic flow.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Transport, has said that he considers this decision to be the most important improvement for drivers since the abolition of border controls.

Electronic toll systems were introduced in several European countries in the early 1990s. Most systems operate with an on-board unit communicating characteristics such as the vehicle's weight and size to the road operators to determine the toll.

However, the various national and local electronic road toll systems are generally incompatible and can only communicate with the appropriate on-board units. These non-interoperable road toll systems especially hinder international road transport. For example, to travel from Portugal to Denmark five or more on-board units might be needed on the vehicle's dashboard.

The Commission Decision also lays down the rights and obligations of toll chargers, service providers, and users. Users will be able to subscribe to the service provider of their choice. Toll chargers will communicate the tolls due to the service providers, who will eventually invoice the users. Tolls paid via EETS may not exceed the corresponding national or local tolls.

The system is to be made available within three years for all road vehicles above 3.5 tonnes or allowed to carry more than nine passengers, including the driver, and for all other vehicles within five years.

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