05. January 2016

Tolls on coaches: politicians must act on implementation

“Toll exemptions cost the state 100 million euros a year”

The main thing is that it’s cheap. Scheduled coaches services profit from exemptions to motorway charges. Unfair policies cost the transport ministry and its budgets millions of Euros.

Berlin, January 5, 2016. In the dispute about exemptions for road toll on scheduled coach services, the German Pro-Rail Alliance is arguing for fairer completion between coaches and trains. After federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt’s stated at the turn of the year that there are currently no plans for introducing tolls on coaches because it would not change the tough competitive situation for the railways, the transport alliance is calling for the introduction of coach tolls to be tackled in this legislative period. “The federal transport minister did not bring forward any arguments against road charges on scheduled coaches,” said Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance on Tuesday in Berlin.

“Economic madness”

Whereas it is normal practice for every train to pay track charges for the using the railway network, scheduled coaches have been allowed to use the road network for free since the market was liberalized two years ago. The low prices, which have enticed millions of passengers to use coach services, were originally justified by politicians as start-up aid for the newly launched sector. “This line of reasoning has by now lost any last remnants of plausibility,” said Flege, who referred to the report Market Analysis for Scheduled Coach Transport 2015 (German), published at the beginning of the week on behalf of the Federal Transport Ministry by the Federal Agency for Freight Transport (BAG). “The transport minister can now read for himself in one of his own ministry’s publications that scheduled coach services are not only cannibalizing intercity trains but increasing state funded regional rail services as well,” said Flege. “Transport policies of this kind are economic madness.”

Road toll exemptions cost millions

From a budgetary point of view, giving coach services undue preference is also unjustifiable. Flege said that exempting coaches from motorway tolls will cost the state around 100 million euros in 2016 alone, according to a study on highway costs. “That would have closed the hole that was torn in the transport budget by the lowering of road charges on trucks, which came into effect at the start of 2015.”

The Pro-Rail Alliance is calling for a political framework that allows scheduled coach services and the railways to compete for passengers’ favour on a level playing field. “Competition is good but is has to be fair. Not only when it comes to charges: politicians also apply double standards on passenger rights. That has to be corrected in 2016”.