On Friday, Transport Minister Camiel Eurlings announced the introduction of a road-use charge. “We’ve finally made our decision,” he said. The charge will be based on the distance driven and will be accompanied by lower fixed charges for road users.

The minister says the charge is the answer to the problem of traffic jams in the Netherlands. Lorries will start paying per kilometre in 2011, with cars following a year later.

The latest satellite technology will register the distance driven. Mr Eurlings hopes the system will be up and running throughout the Netherlands by 2016.

Pay less
For years, the government has put forward one plan after another to combat the growing traffic jams in the Netherlands. The minister thinks he has now found the magic formula to deal with the eight million cars on Dutch roads. A satellite system will register where and when the vehicles are driven. Environmentally unfriendly cars will face higher charges.

Under the new system, motorists will no longer pay road tax or BMP tax on new cars. Mr Eurlings says it will be a fairer system, taxing vehicle use rather than ownership. He claims more than half of road users will pay less under the new system.

A number of European cities, including Stockholm and London, have introduced charges for road use during the rush hour. In Germany, a road-use charge has been introduced which only affects lorries. The EVO Dutch hauliers’ organisation is demanding an undertaking that this will not be the case in the Netherlands.
The minister earlier said the system would be introduced at the same time for both lorries and cars. However, it has finally been decided to introduce the new charges a year earlier for lorries, as the limited number of vehicles will be easier to monitor.

Reasonably positive
The opposition conservative VVD has rejected Mr Eurling’s plans. The conservatives argue that road users’ costs have only risen under this government and believe the new charges will do nothing to buck the trend.

However, most responses have up to now been reasonably positive. Road users’ and employers’ organisations have voiced satisfaction. Even Amsterdam Council, which wanted to introduce a toll system round the city, says it can live with the proposed system. The capital is planning to start trials in 2011 on its own system to encourage motorists to avoid the rush hour.