New transport minister ignites debate over car toll for autobahn

Transportation Minister Peter Ramsauer sparked a row over the introduction of road tolls in Germany on Thursday, flagging higher charges for car drivers then quickly backing off as the debate heated up.

New transport minister ignites debate over car toll for autobahn
Photo: DPA

Ramsauer, from Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), told daily Passauer Neue Presse that the federal budget could no longer pay the cost of building motorways and mooted road tolls for passenger cars, or PKW-Maut, as a solution.

“We want the road system to be more strongly financed by users,” Ramsauer said. “The vehicle charge (on trucks) was a start. To reduce the dependence of the necessary capital spending on the federal budget, we want all options on the table and to be examined.”

But later, he said in Berlin that “no mention of a PKW-Maut is actually in the coalition agreement” and that a road toll was therefore not on the agenda.

The Federation of Taxpayers quickly slammed the road toll idea as “a scam.”

“The Pkw-Maut is an old idea being revitalised to create revenue opportunities,” federation chief Reiner Holznagel told the Leipziger Volkszeitung. “The driver is still the Finance Minister’s cash cow.”

But the Premier-elect of Baden-Württemberg, Stefan Mappus, came out in favour of tolls, saying they should be introduced by 2013.

“I hope that we can even implement it in this legislative period, because every year without tolls is a year of lost revenue,” he told Financial Times Deutschland.

Tolls would raise revenue from foreign vehicles by 20 percent, he said.

Presently the road charge for the autobahn is imposed only on goods vehicles such as trucks, which is called the LKW-Maut, but Ramsauer indicated it could be expanded to all vehicles.

Trucks pay a road charge in Germany based on the distance driven, the size of the vehicle and its carbon emission rating. The toll charge was introduced in 2005, partly as a way of charging foreign freight vehicles for using German motorways.

The average truck pays about 15 cents per kilometre and most tolling is done automatically.

Ramsauer said he would soon be setting up an expert panel to consider the options.

He stressed there would be no increase in the rate of tolls on trucks while the economy was struggling.

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