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DEsigns for Interurban Road pricing schemes in Europe

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Network corridors
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The decade of the 90s witnessed significant political statements supported by several studies standing for the need of a more efficient transport system as a sine qua non condition for the promotion of sustainable growth and development in Europe.


This aim was clearly stated by the European Commission's Green Paper 'Towards fair and efficient pricing in transport' where price is seen as an essential part of the required policy mix in order to curb congestion, accidents and pollution. The paper advocates that an efficient pricing regime in transport is the one, which seeks to internalise the various externalities currently threatening sustainable growth.


More recently, the Commission's White Paper on 'Fair Payment for Infrastructure Use' takes a stepwise approach, advocating as a first step the introduction of a more cost related electronic charge to succeed the current 'Eurovignette' system. Electronic road pricing clearly has a European dimension originating, among others, from the necessity for interoperability, therefore, the convergence of these systems is of utmost importance in the Community.

The first aim of this project is thus of clear EU added value, by practically assessing inter-urban road pricing schemes (IRPS) in Europe, and providing guidelines not only for the design of those schemes but also to overcome its implementation difficulties.

The guidelines and recommendations that will be produced by the project will help policy makers in defining and setting up policies for a more efficient use of existing road networks, and the consequent improvement of efficiency and effectiveness in the dynamics of economic and social relations between regions and sectors of the Community. The exploitation potential of the project is thus very high, given the active policy development following the Commission's White Paper.

The project will directly contribute to fulfil the stated aims of the White Paper, as well as to achieve a more balanced exploitation of roads with the consequent positive impact in the potential to attract private capital as an alternative source of financing of the TEN investments.

Positive environmental effects will also arise from the internalisation of external costs of transport and there will be a reduction of congestion costs, with strong benefits for the quality of life of European citizens.


The overall objective of DESIRE was to provide a practical assessment of the effectiveness of interurban road pricing in Europe as well as its impacts, by providing guidelines for the design of electronic road pricing schemes and offering solutions to difficulties relating to implementation.

The research was built to achieve the following main technical and scientific objectives:

  • provision of a set of best designs for future inter urban road pricing schemes for heavy vehicles, considering the possible extension to individual mobility;
  • in depth analysis of the different aspects with determinant impact in the success of the implementation of these schemes (including contractual and institutional operation as well as all issues related with the enhancement of its acceptability);
  • provision of clear guidelines and recommendations for the design, financing and implementation of inter urban road pricing schemes for heavy vehicles in the different existing regulatory and organisational settings, with specific advise regarding the pros and cons of the different possible schemes.

The project was organised along a sequence of six phases each one entailing the following objectives:

  1. An inception phase where the consolidation of findings from previous research was done together with a survey on the state of affairs on this issue in the various countries. The project thus started by reviewing not only of the diversity of tolling schemes in existence and in preparation but also the diversity of political and economic objectives for the introduction of road charges;
  2. The design of a theoretical foundation of possible designs for IRPS for heavy vehicles;
  3. The assessment of 10 case studies covering a wide diversity of EU countries, plus Switzerland, Hungary and Brazil;
  4. Testing of IPRS schemes developed against a consistent framework;
  5. Identification of best functional schemes and implementation issues, where a selection of best key elements in each IPRS scheme was made together with the best design guidelines and principles in terms of potential for successful implementation;
  6. Finally a synthesis of the project providing clear guidelines on the pros and cons of each IPRS scheme.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


  1. IPRS state of the art. Given the diversity of perspectives on IPRS in EU countries, a major result that has been achieved within DESIRE project was the establishment of a reference framework which supported the research process. In fact, a systematic review of previous research has been carried out in order to agree on a comprehensive harmonisation of concepts and terms enabling further comparability of results. Furthermore, the added value of this result is also linked with its potential role in future projects and discussions concerning IRPS issues at national and/or international level.
  2. Model Designs of Possible IRPS. This result provides a detailed definition of different basic forms of IRPS and a discussion of the technical systems and institutional dimensions that support the implementation of these IRPS. It includes:
    • A common basis of the analysis - this concerns the objectives and basic forms of IRPS, the pricing principles and, most important, the functionality of an IRPS;
    • The discussion of possible technical and procedural solutions - this discussion is focused on solutions for the two mileage-dependent schemes DAREA and NET; different possible technical solutions have been identified;
    • The definition and assessment of possible institutional solutions - shows that there is not the one institutional model, but depending on the weight given to different objectives, an All Public, a Mixed or an All Private Model are conceivable.
    • This output also includes an Excel toolkit for self-assessment of country situation and feasibility assessment regarding introduction/ implementation of IRPS.
  3. Framework for Assessment of Country Situation as Regards IRPS. This result is mainly concerned with the development of an analytical framework to assess the current situation and the feasibility of different types of IRPS under different transport environment characteristics (national contexts). This analytical framework was also designed in order to provide better knowledge on the conditions under which a common or an interoperable European concept(s) can be introduced. Under this purpose a relevant number of national case studies was carried out, providing detailed information on the diversity of situations and evolution paths. The main tools that have been applied include a Multi Criteria Analysis for assessment of feasibility of IRPS and an accep

    Policy implications

    The final report includes a section with detailed conclusions and recommendations. Here an overview is presented:

    1. There is a considerable diversity of objectives and framework conditions surrounding the introduction of road tolls. Part of those objectives and conditions are dynamic, but others are rather stable, so there is and there will be for a long time legitimate reason for diversity of tolling strategies by national governments;
    2. Prices are just one of the types of instruments in support of transport policy (the main others being supply [infrastructure and technology] and regulation [technical and economical]). In search for an optimal intervention on the transport system, governments should remember the availability of these three types of instruments. In parallel with some convergence on the regulatory front, the large differences existing with regard to supply make differences on the pricing front natural;
    3. Just like companies in a market try to recur to different combinations of production factors to find their spaces of competitiveness, so do national governments recur to different combinations of those instruments to find situations where their transport systems may promote the competitiveness of their economies. This search has to be done in respect of some basic rules of the European Union, like the principle of territoriality and the promotion of the Internal Single Market and reduction of barriers to trade, of which free access to markets and a strong harmonisation of technical regulations are necessary supporting elements;
    4. Identity of transport prices would make sense if countries were facing identical situations of density and sophistication of supply of transport infrastructure and services, and of density of demand, i.e. ultimately of identical situations of population density and purchasing power, which clearly is not the case in Europe;
    5. Different tolling schemes, as well as the possible need to involve private financing of infrastructure, will lead to different recommendations regarding the institutional design, from all-public to all-private.
      • However, 5.1 In all cases, it is recommended that ownership of transport infrastructure stays in public hands, as well as the decision to build it and to what standards;
      • 5.2 In all cases, the State should ensure independent audit of the processes of revenue collection and application, as well as of the processes


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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