Prime Minister, Transport Operators Discuss New Road Toll System
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov met representatives of transport companies.
The meeting, organized at the request of transport operators, included a discussion of the scope of the roads where a toll fee will be paid, and of the amount of the tariffs. Participants were also Regional Development and Public Works Minister Petya Avramova, her deputy, Nikolay Nankov, and Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov.
After the meeting, Avramova said that August 16 will see the start of three-month tests of the toll system to determine the results of the fees, and the actual charging of vehicles will begin in November. She noted it is possible for the test period to end earlier. There will be changes to the regulations because of the fixed requirement to collect toll fees instead of vignettes from August 16.
Avramova said May 15 saw the start of simulation tests in real time with installed on-board devices on trucks without paying the relevant toll fee. "The aim is to track the mileage covered, the domestic heavy traffic that will be charged per mileage, and the transit traffic," she added. The Minister noted the transport branch asked that the final amount of the fees be decided on after tracking the real traffic of vehicles between 3.5 and 12 tonnes and of those over 12 tonnes in order to obtain a real idea of the traffic. She said there are several options prepared that will be negotiable with transport operators.
Avramova noted she will convene a session of the Public Advisory Council for the toll system, where new proposals for toll fees options and the scope of the system will be presented. She said a map of roads free of fees because of their poor condition will be presented to the transport companies. She recalled that Bulgaria is not a country with a motorway network and alternative roads to every motorway, as the lack of resources for road repair and construction totals nearly 600 million leva.
Yordan Arabadzhiev, Union of International Hauliers CEO, said the participants in the meeting agreed on the need for a toll system as the most fair way of using the roads, and noted everyone wants to travel on better roads.
On Wednesday, transport operators warned that the introduction of the toll system will inevitably lead to more expensive travel tickets and higher prices of fuel, food and non-food goods. Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Urban Planning Nikolai Nankov said that after a series of meetings with the transport branch, including on expert level, the sides have come to some agreement about the scope and tariffs of the toll system. "The aim is to abide by the European principle that whoever increases traffic pays more," Nankov explained. "We want to create the necessary conditions for the transport branch without depriving the road sector of repair and rehabilitation resources. Any compromise about the scope of the tariff will have an impact on road quality and the construction of the motorway ring in the long term," he added.
The toll system for heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will be introduced on August 16, 2019. At this stage, the idea is to cover some 50 per cent of the republican road network, or about 10,000 km. The remaining 10,000 km and the 20,000 km municipal roads will be free for trucks over 3.5 tonnes after the introduction of toll taxes. The tariffs were developed by experts of the World Bank, a consultant to the Road Infrastructure Agency. Revenues from the toll system will provide additional resources for repair and construction of roads.
The Regional Development Ministry has proposed a fee of about 0.10 leva for mass transport vehicles between 3.5 and 12 tonnes and higher fees for heavier vehicles. These are also related to the environmentally friendly aspect of a vehicle, the lowest being nearly 0.05 lv/km for EURO 6 buses and the highest one of nearly 0.95 lv/km for EURO 1 and EURO 2 trucks over 12 tonnes with four or more axes. Transport operators suggested that the German system be adopted when determining toll fee amounts, but aligned with this country's GDP, which is five times less than that of Germany.
The Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB) wants the introduction of the toll system to be postponed until the beginning of next year and to include only motorways and first-class roads that are part of the European transport network. Branch associations, in turn, demanded a mandatory six-month test period of the toll system.