Friday, February 18, 2011

Higher Road Tolls Will Hit Freight Haulage Companies

Europe's Motorway Costs Continue to Rise
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – In January we highlighted the discontent which freight hauliers in the UK felt as road, tunnel and bridge tolls seemed destined to rise despite the severe downturn which many were subjected to especially in the light of seemingly inevitable higher fuel costs.

Now it appears truckers on the other side of the Channel are also facing increased motorway tolls which rose this month after a much criticised short consultation period. It is hard to define the percentage increases as the complex tariffs are managed by several main motorway operators, three of the most prominent being Abertis, Eiffage and Vinci, all of whom joined together for the first time this year to increase rates simultaneously.

ASFA, the French the Association of French Motorway and Toll-road Concession-holders and Operators, which represents 19 toll road concession holders and other fee collecting highway interests, insist the joint rises were essential to maintain infrastructure but cynics say that a drop in traffic during the slump of 2008 means the rise was necessary to protect profits. As the operators have to propose any increase to the Government a concerted appeal presumably carried more weight than individual pleas.

With some of the increases close to 5% they far outstrip France’s current inflation rate which hovers around 1.5% there has been widespread condemnation, not least from pressure group, 40 millions d’Automobilistes, who point out rises are supposedly limited to fall within inflation levels.

With the combined profits of just three of the service providers exceeding €1.25 billion (Cofiroute, APRR and ASF) and pricing seemingly attracting merely apathy from the state since the Government sold off most of its motorway management shares some years ago it seems haulage costs are set to increase across the continent as well as the UK.

Photo:- Viaduc de Millau.