A Europe-wide road-charging system and a clampdown on company cars are at the forefront of the European Commission's (EC) vision for the future of road transport.
The EC is proposing a number of draconian measures to cut traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. In return, it pledges that 'curbing mobility is not an option' and says that individuals will remain free to travel by whatever means they choose, but it admits that 'transport users are likely to pay for a higher proportion of the costs' in future.
The benefits will be a cut in congestion, more information, better service and improved safety on all forms of transport, according to the EC. It also says Europe's 210 billion annual oil import bill (2010 figure) will be reduced.
The 'spectre' of road-charging returns
The EC's plans once more raise the spectre of comprehensive road charging. 'The long-term goal is to apply user charges to all vehicles and on the whole network to reflect at least the maintenance cost of infrastructure, congestion and air and noise pollution,' says the EC white paper on the future of transport.
There is no guarantee of reductions in other vehicle taxes as compensation. Indeed, the white paper proposes revisions to 'motor fuel taxation with clear identification of the energy and CO2 component'.
Company car users also face being hit by higher taxes, with the EC calling for measures that will 'eliminate distortions' politician-speak for a package that will, in reality, force business drivers to switch to smaller, cleaner cars and to cover fewer miles.
Other EC proposals
• A plan for a new vehicle fuel test system by no later than 2013
• Petrol and diesel cars to be banned from all European cities by 2050, and their number to be halved by 2030
• A framework to be created for 'urban road user charging and access restriction'
• More driver assistance systems, smart speed limiters and improved roadworthiness tests to improve safety
• 'Infrastructure use' charges
• Encourage private industry to end 'harmful subsidies', which might include private use of company vehicles