Tuesday, 12 March 2013

News briefs - Australia, Denmark, Indonesia, Italy, USA

Australia - Heavy vehicle charges review starts

Transport and Logistics News Australia reports on how the National Transport Commission is consulting on proposed changes to the heavy vehicle charges system (most of which are about how the charges are calculated).

The article is perhaps more interesting for its summary of how Australia charges trucks to use its roads. It is not road pricing or tolls, but a reasonable means of trying to be as efficient as possible in using fuel tax and ownership taxes.

Rather than the widely used non-system of political/bureaucratic guesses as to what might be charged, it involves calculating costs attributable to heavy vehicles, costs attributable to all vehicles and then setting charges to recover from heavy vehicles their share of infrastructure costs. 60% are recovered from fuel tax and 40% from vehicle ownership taxes.  Fuel tax is collected at the Federal level, but ownership taxes at the state level.

The principles applied are as below:
  • Full recovery of allocated infrastructure costs while minimising both the over and under recovery from any class of vehicle;
  • Cost-effectiveness of pricing instruments;
  • Transparency;
  • The need to balance administrative simplicity, efficiency and equity (e.g. impact on regional and remote communities/access);
  • The need to have regard to other pricing applications such as light vehicle charges, tolling and congestion;
  • Ongoing cost recovery in aggregate;
  • The removal of cross-subsidies between vehicle classes.
Now without distance and weight based charging, the system is going to be very much second best, but this system for setting charges is more advanced than that used to set charges in much of North America and Europe.   It is, at least, based on setting clear objectives with the need for transparent economic analysis to be used to base charges, and it does provide a framework which could be easily adapted to weight/distance based road user charging.

Denmark - Environmental Economic Council calls for road pricing to replace ownership and purchase taxes

The Copenhagen Post reports that the head of Det Miljøøkonomiske Råd, the environmental economic council, Hans Jørgen Whitta-Jacobsen, has suggested replacing the extortionate vehicle ownership taxes with a distance based road pricing system.  Vehicle purchase taxes cost 105% of the purchase value of a car up to 79,000 DKK (US$13,778) and 180% for every Kroner of value above that.  This imposes an enormous tax on the purchase of a new car.   Ownership taxes start at DKK120 (US$21) for the most fuel efficient diesel cars up to DKK15090 (US$2632) for the least efficient.  All of this makes car ownership expensive, and so doesn't target driving on the most congested roads (so penalises rural areas and those who without jobs accessible by public transit, walking or cycling).   His biggest concern is that such taxes discourage motorists from buying newer, more fuel efficient low emission vehicles.

Indonesia - PT Jasa Marga expecting increased revenue from growing network

The Jakarta Post reports that PT Jasa Marga, Indonesia's largest state owned toll road company, is expecting a 16.1% revenue increase this year, worth a total of US$671 million.   It has a network of 545km of toll roads with four new toll roads to open this calendar year (Nusa Dua-Ngurah Rai-Benoa road in Bali, Kebon Jeruk-Ciledug road in Jakarta, Gempol-Pandaan road in East Java and the Ungaran-Bawen road in Central Java). 

Jasa Marga is looking to facilitate up to 1.2 billion vehicle trips nationwide in 2013, 9.1 percent higher from the 1.1 billion vehicles last year.  80% of trips are on toll roads in greater Jakarta, indicating the sheer density of usage in that city.  Notable in the report is the roll out of the new e-Toll pass, which involves the use of a DSRC on-board unit, and a contactless smart card with prepaid credit that can be topped up.  Only 11% of transactions are at present using this technology, the intention is to lift this to 30% within two years.    Now the toll booths with this technology are not free flow, the tag activates the barrier arm, but the intention is to expand the number of toll booths that are electronically equipped to 111 by the end of 2013.   I would have thought that given the chronic congestion in Indonesia, lifting up take of electronic tolling to 50% of trips within two years should be a realistic goal.

Italy - Atlantia diversifies into airports

According to ReutersAtlantia, Italy's largest toll road operator, is to buy Gemina, the airport operator best known for owning Aeroporti di Roma (which owns Rome's Fiumicino and Ciampino Airports).  The report said:

The deal will allow Atlantia, which also operates about 1,800 km of motorways in Brazil and Chile, to branch out into airport concessions in Latin America. It will not, however, generate meaningful cost synergies, a Milan-based analyst said.

USA - California- Santa Clarita (LA) looking at tolls to help fund new lanes

The website of radio station KHTS reports that Santa Clarita city (part of the LA metro area) is investigating whether to accelerate the widening of the I-5 freeway (the main northern freeway out of LA) between Highway 14 and Castaic by tolling the additional lanes.   The project would cost $310 million and the city has 75% of the funds needed to progress it (when divided over 30 years), and is hoping tolling the additional lanes may provide the remainder.  The proposal is to make the project into a PPP, with a private concessionaire recovering the cost over 35 years, using tolls on the new lanes only. The intention is for pricing to be dynamic maintaining a minimum speed of 45mph.  Curiously, the proposal maintains the HOT lane concept, by keeping the lanes free for vehicles with three or more occupants, which seems crazy if the key desire is to raise revenue.  The only purpose to keep HOT lanes is consistency, but beyond buses there is little good reason for new lanes to be free for any cars.   There is sense in applying the HOT principle if the lanes are underutilised HOV lanes, but why should well occupied cars occupying the same road space get access for free?  What evidence is there that this actually changes behaviour on any meaningful scale?  (besides a car with three people in it can split a toll three-ways surely)?

USA - Texas - Cintra wins concession for North Tarrant Express expansion

International Construction reports that Ferrovial subsidiary Cintra has won the concession to build the North Tarrant Express expansion in Texas.  Cintra is to be responsible for developing a 6.5 mile extension, with the state responsible for another 3.6 miles, but Cintra responsible for the tolling, operation and maintenance of the lot, with the total cost of both segments being US$1.38 billion.   The contract involves building two new managed lanes which will be tolled, but also the maintenance and operation of the untolled lanes.

The report says that "the Cintra-led consortium, NTE Mobility Partners Segments 3 LLC, also involves Meridiam Infrastructure and Dallas Police and Fire Pension System"

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