Summary: The EU has long sought to introduce road pricing covering all Europe’s roads. In 2011, a Transport White Paper covered its vision, with action planned from 2016. However, recent developments have almost all been under the guise of energy policy, and much under-publicised. There is a very real prospect of road pricing being imposed on the UK’s drivers.


Q: Why is the EU Transport White Paper important?

A: The European Commission sees UK roads as part of a ‘Trans European Network’ (TEN-T) governed at EU level. In 2011, the Commission released a transport White Paper "Roadmap Towards a Single European Transport Area".


This was essentially a political initiative, pushing towards a single European approach, including ‘new congestion and 'climate change' taxes such as road pricing’. The EU has long been pushing for road pricing to pay for its Galileo satellite, which has had financial problems.


However, at the time it was under-publicised in the national press, who were decoyed by a Commission Press Release into reporting on less emotive suggestions to ban conventional cars from cities by 2050.


Q: What does the small print say?

A: The small print makes it quite clear that the Commission is going to push for compulsory European road user charges for 'all vehicles'. (Relevant wording - 'demand management', p8; 'all vehicles/passengers cars', p15; 'full and mandatory charging',  p29).


The accompanying press release hinted that any moves towards road pricing are ‘for national governments’, which was rather disingenuous.

The Commission reserved the right to go for drastic action with creation of ‘a pervasive command and control approach to mobility'.


The Executive Summary (on page 5) noted the EU's preferred actions as markedly reducing people’s mobility. The White Paper warned that transport users are likely to pay more than today.


The general thrust indicated road pricing ambitions for major routes (TENs) and other main roads that 'compete' with them, then more local roads that would take displaced traffic wishing to avoid tolls. This confirmed that the plans are for all vehicles on all roads.


Interesting also that compulsion is intended in the period from 2016. (David Cameron had only ruled out wider road pricing in the UK up to 2015).



Q: Is the White Paper still relevant?

A: Very much so. Last July, the European Parliament transport committee reviewed it and by a majority of 38 votes to 3, urged the Commission to Commission to create a Single European Transport Area with a widespread framework of road charges. Only the UK(UKIP) and Swedish delegates voted against.


The Commission has committed to action in its work plan this March.

By coincidence, Jonathan Parker, a Director-General at the Commission, has also commissioned a report on the potential for raising money across the EU from ‘green taxes’.



Q: What right does the Commission have to act?

A: The European Commission is the EU body that proposes legislation. It claims various justifications for a ‘Single European Transport Area’, such completing the Single Market, ‘undistorted competition’, and ‘the elimination of tax distortions’.


However, it is under no obligation to introduce measures in any way that the UK government can veto, and has previously introduced the Working Time Directive in a way to avoid it being vetoed. Measures are typically now decided by majority voting, without a national veto, in areas such as the Single Market, competition, environment and energy…


The EU plans to introduce (legislative) proposals in July 2016 – coincidentally just after the UK’s referendum on EU membership.


Q: But isn’t charging for road use a national matter?

A: Some old Directives have allowed national choice on HGV charges.

The UK government already has a lorry road user charge for some years, with a simple per day charge for HGVs, and a rebate on road tax (VED) for British hauliers. However, it is not the ‘distance-based charging’ – per mile or km - wanted by the EU.


The Commission has suddenly taken legal action against the UK government, claiming that the scheme is ‘discriminatory’. This might be a wake-up call to those who feel that deciding road use charges is a national matter.


Distance-based charging, the EU’s preferred approach, would require detailed journey tracking and recording. (It has been pointed out that introducing it for lorries might be a softly-softly way of installing the nationwide tracking and charging technology, which could then be extended to all vehicles).


The Commission says that issues being addressed by the White Paper are too big to be dealt with just by Member States (Executive summary, p4). However, it has also surprisingly included road pricing ambitions deep inside proposals for an ‘Energy Union Package’. In November 2015, motoring magazine Drive Europe News confirmed the Commission’s ‘secret’ road pricing plans, noting “the prime mover is Energy, not Transport”.



Q: Could ‘Energy Union’ be a Trojan Horse for road pricing? What has the UK government’s position been on both?

A:  Before the 2015 general election, the Transport Network website sensed that the Con, Lib and Lab parties were distancing themselves from road pricing. (However, when separately asked to rule it out in the current Parliament, neither Con or Lab parties would commit to this. David Cameron had only ruled out wider road pricing in the UK ‘up to 2015’.)


Energy Secretary Amber Rudd made a speech in Nov 2015 in which she claimed ‘the Prime Minister has been calling for an ambitious Energy Union for Europe’. (For some reason ‘political content’ was edited out).

She added “So we welcome the report out from the EU today on the “State of the Energy Union”…And I can say to Europe that Britain stands ready to help make this vision a reality.” The ‘State of the Energy Union’ communication mentions ‘fair and efficient pricing’ (the EU’s euphemism for road pricing).


Key Energy Union proposals were made at EU level in October 2014, March 2015 and June 2015, with acceptance from UK representatives. In Dec 2015, heads of government committed to “swift implementation”.


Transport Ministers Patrick McLoughlin and Robert Goodwill were certainly aware of ‘Energy Union’ in transport discussions, but did not report back on the road pricing angle with any priority.





EU White Paper documents – COM(2011)144 etc  (warning on dalekspeak!) http://ec.europa.eu/transport/strategies/2011_white_paper_en.htm


EU Energy Union documents  (warning on one-sided glowing imagery and flowery language used)



More about Trans European Networks, road pricing (‘ITS’) technology and the Transport White Paper on www.fairdealforthemotorist.org.uk/euten.htm


This page was originally compiled on 11 Jun 2016. After the shock caused by the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, the initiative was put on hold, but resurfaced in May 2017.






ABD manifesto

Campaign index


Justice for over-taxed motorists

 ‘Fair Deal’ home page



Campaign index

Site map