The Eurovignette proposal has stirred controversy since the beginning, opposing member states at the periphery of main freight routes (Portugal, Estonia, Malta) and those who suffer most from the high transit and infrastructure costs, and the congestion and pollution that come with it (Austria, France, Germany).
The Commission reacted positively to the vote, saying the adopted Eurovignette directive will allow "fairer pricing of transport infrastructure". The possibility for member states to introduce pricing variations, said transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot, "is a first step towards taking better account of external costs [of road transport]".
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) lashed out at the agreement, saying Eurovignette will effectively bleed road hauliers dry. The IRU's central criticism is that the money raised is not fully reserved for the road sector. "Every year, road users pay €330 bn to governments through taxes, yet public spending on roads amounts to only €100 bn," the IRU points out. The other criticism is that member sates cannot compensate road haulers for the extra financial burden with reductions on other levies such as vehicle tax or fuel duties. "Unprecedented high fuel prices have stretched the sector's resources to the limit," the IRU claims.
The International Tourism Alliance (AIT) and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) also say that "motoring already pays for itself". Their argument is that existing taxes, including fuel taxes and vehicle taxes, easily cover the external costs of road usage.
The Community of European Railways (CER) was not satisfied with the agreement, saying the Parliament "has chosen a quick compromise rather than a good one". CER says the decision is in contradiction with the 'user pays' principle as "it will not be possible for tolls to reflect all costs, in particular external costs such as congestion, air pollution and accidents". CER's Executive Director Johannes Ludewig points to a recent study by McKinsey which predicts that rail freight volumes in Western Europe will fall by 30 to 40% in the medium term under existing policies. "The prospects for a development of rail freight across Europe are alarming," said Ludewig.
Gilles Savary MEP (PES, France), the vice-president of Parliament's transport committee, welcomed the agreement on cost internalisation as "a significant parliamentary conquest against resistance from the powerful road lobby and countries at the [EU's] periphery". The compromise, he added, also represents "welcome legal certainty" for freight businesses
However, Savary regretted that the bill's implementation is left to "the good will of member states governments". The French socialist MEP called for further measures to provide the EU with its own budgetary means to finance transport policies, suggesting that part of the truck levies be allocated to trans-European networks.
The Green Group said the Parliament has "missed a big chance" to make Europe's transport policy "really sustainable". "The price for health damage, environmental damages or accidents will still have to be carried out by the public and this also means the further unacceptable promotion of the ever growing truck avalanche," said Eva Lichtenberger (Austria) und Michael Cramer (Germany).
T&E, the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, said the deal only delays action to include the health and environmental costs in freight pricing. T&E's Markus Liechti points to OECD and other studies to assert: "EU citizens will continue to pick up a €170 billion bill every year that we wait for a new Commission proposal and yet another agreement."
For the EU Committee of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), it is essential to include private cars and urban areas in infrastructure charging policy to alleviate congestion and reduce environmental degradation. It cites the London congestion charging scheme as a particularly good example by saying that a £5 congestion charge is reported to have resulted in a reduction of 38 percent in private cars in central London.