Escalating congestion and pollution raise doubts about the sustainability of road transport. Road usage charging can address these issues as it can influence the choices of road transport users. Already in 1997 a Commission White Paper outlined the main principles for charging. It should
- be based on the "user pays" principle
- be directly related to the costs that users impose on the infrastructure and on others
- promote the efficient provision of infrastructure
Electronic Fee Collection (EFC) systems can offer the possibility of charging road vehicles in a flexible way and allow targeted infrastructure charging policies. It is essential for such systems to be interoperable, also across national borders, to avoid creating new obstacles to traffic flow in Europe. Interoperability should enable road users to circulate throughout the European Union without having to be concerned by charging procedures changing from one country or region to another and without having to install specific equipment to access different charging zones. This does not require one single service provider but there should be interoperability between the different systems so that paying charges would be a seamless operation. The main issues facing EFC include:
- technical interoperability: concerning on-board equipment as well as positioning and communication technology
- procedural interoperability: contractual agreements between infrastructure operators and toll payment service providers
- treatment of "non-equipped users": how to handle vehicles with no equipment or equipment which is not compatible
- protection of personal data and system security
Directive 2004/52/EC lays down the conditions for the interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the European Union. The Directive requires that all new electronic toll systems brought into service shall use one or more of the following technologies: satellite positioning (GNSS); mobile communications (GSM-GPRS); microwave technology (DSRC).
The Directive also sets up a European Electronic Toll Service (EETS), by which road users only subscribe to a single contract with an EETS provider in order to pay the charges related to any charging scheme requiring an on-board equipment. The detailed definition required by Directive 2004/52/EC regarding technical, procedural and legal issues, has been finalised by the European Commission with the help of the Committee for the interoperability of electronic road toll systems. The Commission Decision on the EETS definition has been adopted on 6 October 2009.
For public transport new technologies for smart ticketing systems are gaining importance. When abroad the user travel experience should be as easy as for local travellers. The vision is one of seamless travel and seamless ticketing. Today ticketing applications can be routinely loaded on smart cards or mobile telephones. Similar issues of technical and contractual interoperability arise. Current electronic ticketing schemes rely on media and ticket contracts designed for geographically limited fare systems. Future developments will not replace integrated ticketing systems, but will open up their boundaries and make them interoperable with each other and with other customer applications.
The developments in Europe (especially in Germany, France, United Kingdom and the Netherlands) have pushed European standardisation. Three standards have been published so far: on data elements (EN 1545), on a framework for interoperable ticketing (EN 15320), and on the fare management system architecture (ISO 24014-1).
The IFM forum and project is dedicated to an attractive access to public transportation with modern fare management. The objective is to avoid the establishment of isolated national solutions and to define route-maps leading the way toward Europe-wide interoperability.
Core services include interoperable electronic toll services (in general or for specific infrastructure), access charging (including congestion charging); electronic and mobile ticketing for public transport, interoperable fare management.