First publishedin World Highways
When channelled back into the road sector, revenue from road charging is seen by many as a source of additional investment and research funds as Patrick Smith reports
Late in 2010, three major European organisations put out a policy statement calling for fair charging for greener, smarter and safer road infrastructure. ASECAP
(the European toll road operators organisation); ERF (European Road Federation
) and the IRU (International Road Transport Union
), said that in recent years the concept of road charging (making users pay per kilometre) had gained momentum among Europe's policymakers at national as well as European level.
The organisations said that in their view road user charging should be seen as a means of a fair tolling scheme based on the pay-as-you-drive concept; such charging must be accompanied by the abolition of numerous current taxes, such as fuel and taxes, to ensure that users don't pay twice; revenue generated from road charging must be channelled back in the road sector as additional investment and research funds aimed at developing cleaner vehicle and infrastructure technologies.
"To date, the earmarking of collected revenues (for example concession tolling) has proven to be a successful method of developing greener, safer and smarter road infrastructure, that is a high quality road network, from the design to the construction, operation and maintenance phases," the trio's policy statement said.
And in its transport policy for 2020, the European Union
wants all EU countries to implement toll charges for heavy trucks, at least on the main transport routes, while seeing the harmonisation of infringements in order to develop a European transport control room.
The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association
(IBTTA) endorsed a Joint Statement of the members of the US National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission
and the National Transportation Policy Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center
A central tenet of the joint statement is the critical role of direct user fees. As the current transportation funding system is eclipsed by improved fuel economy and alternatively fuelled vehicles, the value of a mileage-based user fee system becomes even more apparent.
IBTTA strongly supports the joint statement provision that: "Congress should remove barriers to tolling and pricing." Doing so would encourage [US] states to begin the massive effort to reinvest in failing highways and build new ones.
IBTTA also applauds the joint statement provisions that "reliance on user funding should be restored and strengthened" and "we must begin to transition to a more direct user fee based on vehicle miles travelled (VMT)." Now with near universal acceptance of electronic tolling and the rapid conversion of toll roads to all-electronic toll collection (AET), the toll industry is blazing a path toward the adoption of a VMT fee to pay for highway transportation, said IBTTA.
It commended the members of the Financing Commission and the Bipartisan Policy Center for their wisdom in issuing the statement, agreeing that "...we must move to a performance-based surface transportation funding system that relies on direct user fees.
With the current big increases in the price of oil, and therefore fuel, the subject is likely to gain even higher profile, and was recently discussed at the 8th Annual Road User Charging 2011 Conference in Brussels, Belgium, when ASECAP, ERF and IRU were among the organisations represented. [The subject will again be discussed in the city, 29-31 May, at the 39th ASECAP Annual Study and Information Days when the theme is Tolled infrastructures for Safe, Smart and Clean Transport]. Siemens
, suppliers of road user charging technology and traffic management equipment, co-sponsored the Road User Charging Conference.
Siemens' director of road user charging, Thomas Desseilles' paper focused on high-profile city and national schemes in Slovakia and the UK including London's congestion charge scheme. Since 2005, Siemens has worked with Transport for London
to provide the enforcement system for the London congestion charging scheme and Low Emission Zone.
The company operates and maintains the systems, which involved the installation of over 1,600 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras at almost 400 sites.
In 2010, the satellite-based truck toll system in Slovakia went live, and Siemens developed and delivered the revolutionary satellite-toll based collection solution together with over 220,000 on-board units.
The company also recently supplied advanced tolling technology for an innovative reserved toll lane concept that is helping improve traffic flow on Highway No 1 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, where the aim of the link is to cut congestion, keep traffic flowing, reduce CO2 emissions and lower fuel consumption.
The cost of the toll varies on factors such as the level of congestion on the free-to-use highway sections and the time of day.
"This is a big success for us in one of the most important markets in the Middle East. The flexible adjustment of toll parameters has a positive effect on the traffic management. It promotes intermodal mobility and above all the use of public transportation. This means less congestion, less exhaust emissions and cleaner air," said Jörg Schneppendahl, head of Complete Transportation at Siemens Mobility.
Tolled lane users are detected by video-based licence plate recognition systems and the dynamic toll is based on current traffic demand in the approach area. The toll is charged to the minute, with the exact amount being indicated on variable message signs (VMS), with the heart of the system being the Siemens-developed algorithm, which analyses the traffic situation and calculates the toll fee.
Siemens Mobility supplied the traffic management system including the hardware and software for vehicle licence plate recognition, traffic data acquisition and the control of the message signs.
In the Finnish capital Helsinki, the city may also introduce congestion charging by 2016, with drivers charged for using their vehicles at peak periods, although off-peak night-time driving would be free. The congestion charging system may be developed and expanded to extend beyond Helsinki and become a national tolling scheme.
Meanwhile, Q-Free, headquartered in Trondheim, Norway's 'Silicon Valley', has received an order, worth some US$26.5 million from the Portuguese road operator Ascendi for a major infrastructure project in Portugal.
The contract comprises supply of multi-lane free-flow tolling stations and operational back office for the concessions Beiras Litoral e Alta and Interior Norte. This follows the successful implementation of a similar tolling system in 2009 for the same client.
Ascendi currently operates seven concessions and is responsible for more than 1,300km of motorways and roads in Portugal.
"The Portuguese market continues to be important for the company, and we are specifically pleased that we once again have been selected as Ascendi's partner for advanced fully automated tolling systems," said Øyvind Isaksen, Q-Free CEO.
In the USA, Sirit Corporation, a Federal Signal company and a global provider of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, has been awarded a contract by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to supply its IDentity 5200 readers and tags for the SR 520 Bridge in Seattle, as well as the existing SR 167 HOT lanes. The initial contract is valued at some $2.8 million.
Sirit will provide toll readers, along with both standard and self-declaration transponders, for a toll collection system on SR 520 across Lake Washington. The SR 520 toll collection system is an open road tolling system which will automatically identify and classify each vehicle travelling in both directions at a single location on the highway and capture the transponder identification number.
The Sirit IDentity 5200 readers and tags selected by WSDOT will offer ISO-18000-6C technology, and are designed for long-range, high-speed vehicle identification and tolling applications. The readers and tags are based on open standards and incorporate multiple protocols to enable interoperability with legacy tolling systems in Washington State, while ensuring that features and capabilities can be added as RFID technology continues to evolve.
"Open standards-based technology is leading the way in electronic toll collection (ETC) applications. Sirit is excited to play a role in the innovative implementation of this emerging toll technology," said John Freund, president, Sirit Corporation.
"Sirit's ISO-18000-6C reader and transponder options offer a superior balance of performance and price for any ETC application." In neighbouring Mexico, Macquarie Mexican Infrastructure Fund (MMIF), the first peso-denominated fund focused solely on investment opportunities in Mexican infrastructure projects, has completed the acquisition of a highway package in the north of the country.
It has acquired 100% of Desarrollos Carreteros del Estado de Durango (Decarred) from Rostec for approximately US$125 million. The transaction marks MMIF's first acquisition since it was launched by Australia's Macquarie Group in December 2009.
Decarred has a 20-year contract granted by the State of Durango under a scheme to reconstruct, preserve and maintain ten existing toll-free highway stretches, totalling approximately 320km.