Friday, 5 February 2016

Belgium's heavy vehicle road user charge to start 1 April

Belgium looks set to be the 11th country in Europe to introduce a distance based road pricing system (legally a toll in EU Member States) on 1 April 2016 (counting Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, Belarus and Iceland).

Belgium will withdraw from the Eurovignette system after that date, as all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of over 3.5 tonnes will be required to have an On Board Unit (OBU) to pay the new "kilometer charge" which has been branded as Viapass.  Although not all roads in Belgium are subject to the charge, it will be a legal requirement to have an OBU for any heavy vehicles using any roads in the country.  Uncharged roads are technically tolled subject to a zero Euro tariff.  Around 3,000 km of roads will be charged.

Viapass logo
It is not being implemented by the Belgian Government, but by the three regional governments of Belgium of Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels.

Purpose of the charge

The primary reason given for the charge is that it will better reflect the costs imposed by heavy vehicles on Belgium's road infrastructure, particularly the costs imposed by foreign vehicles (as Belgium has considerable transit traffic passing between countries and to and from its ports).  Distance based charging (compared to the Eurovignette) more directly reflects volumes of traffic and can also better incentivise more environmentally friendly vehicles (as experience in Germany indicates). 
All revenues are treated as revenue attributable to each regional government (based on distance travelled in each region). 

Basis for the charge

All vehicles with a Gross vehicle weight of over 3.5 tonnes will pay by distance based on:

- Weight;
- Euro emission rating;
- Road classification.

The tariff schedule is below in Euros per kilometre.  The weight refers to the full configuration of the vehicle (powered and trailer unit).  As you can see, charges vary by weight band and Euro rating on a logical basis (heavier costs more, as does the more polluting engine rating).  

Slightly more interesting is the higher set of charges for distance travelled in the Brussels urban area not on major highways, this appears to clearly reflect an interest to disincentivise the use of local arterial roads and streets by heavy vehicles (to reduce congestion contributed by heavy vehicles and the exposure of pedestrians and residential areas to pollution from such vehicles).

Curiously, in Flanders and Brussels the charge is legally a tax, and not subject to VAT, but in Walloon where roads are managed by a private company it is legally a fee, so is subject to VAT (as it is a fee for a service provided).
Belgium heavy vehicle road user charge tariff table
Walloon region charged road network
Flanders region charged road network
Brussels metropolitan charged network (all roads, different rate for peripheral highways
What's significant about the Belgian Viapass system

Viapass will be the 11th distance based heavy vehicle road charging system in Europe (counting Belarus, although it includes foreign cars in its system).

Viapass will be the 5th GNSS assisted (Switzerland being assisted), and 4th GNSS based heavy vehicle road charging system in Europe (and the 6th in the world - counting the GPS options for New Zealand and Oregon systems).

Viapass will be the first Benelux country to introduce distance based road charging (after multiple attempts by the Netherlands.

Viapass is the first distance based heavy vehicle charging system in Europe to charge for use of all roads in a city (Brussels - Oregon and New Zealand charge all public roads in both jurisdictions).

Viapass means Belgium withdraws from the multi-country Eurovignette system for heavy vehicles.  The remaining members of Eurovignette are Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Belgium was original intending to introduce a vignette (time based charge) for light vehicles across the country, but suspended that element pending the successful introduction of the heavy vehicle charge and a pilot undertaken on distance based charging for light vehicles.

Further Background

The Satellic consortium won the concession to DBFMO (design, build, finance, maintain and operate) the system for 11 years.  The reported capital cost of the system is around €300 million, although the total value of the concession is €1.4 billion over 12 years (covering capital and operating costs).  Satellic's main shareholders are Deutsche Telekom and Strabag AG.  Satellic will have had 21 months from signing of the concession to inaugurating the system.

Contractual payments

Once the system is in place, Satellic gets a milestone payment of €121 million.  The contract is for 700,000 OBUs, and Satellic will be paid an additional €47 million if it exceeds this number by more than 300,000.  This certainly encourages Satellic to get a million vehicles signed up!

The quarterly payment for the first quarter is €29m.

All assets of the system remain the property of Satellic at the end of the contract, but there will be at least one replacement cycle within 12 years for all assets (if not two or even three for some).


The OBUs supplied measure distance based on location and calculate the charge to be paid, and transmits that information via mobile phone networks to the back office so that the user can be charged.  A mix of gantries, flexible enforcement and mobile enforcement units are to be deployed to check heavy vehicles to ensure that all such vehicles using the charged road networks have working OBUs and active accounts.  More details on enforcement here.

OBUs are self-installed (a far cry from the Toll Collect OBUs in Germany), and can be acquired either online or through one of over 100 registered service agents (this includes Aral/BP, AS24, Brandstoffen Maes, DATS 24, DKV, ENI/AGIP, euroShell, eurotoll, Eurotrafic, Eurowag, E100, Febetra, Gabriëls, Global Star, LogPay, Multi Service Tolls, Octa+, OMV, PowerOil, Plose, Ressa, Statoil, SVG, TLV, Total, UTA, Vialtis), and require a deposit of €135.

Satellic is the only supplier of OBUs (and accounts), but after the system commences operation, other service providers will be able to supply OBUs and accounts.

Instructions about OBU installation are as follows:

The On Board Unit comes with a Quick Start Guide. You can install the OBU easily with the suction cups delivered with it. No tools are necessary. Make sure your windscreen is free of grease and dirt, and that the OBU doesn’t obstruct your view. Remember that the OBU must be levelled horizontally. To power the OBU, you just have to plug the power cable into the cigarette lighter socket. We recommend that you leave the OBU plugged in at all times.

It is also possible to connect your On Board Unit permanently to the vehicle’s electrical system using a fixed cable. The additional costs for a fixed installation are borne by the vehicle owner.

All data transmitted is encrypted, so the default setting is that Satellic only gains data as to the charge that a vehicle is levied, but it is an option for vehicle owners to allow Satellic to track full journeys as an optional service.


Exempt vehicles include:
- Emergency vehicles (fire, ambulance, police)
- Agricultural, horticultural, forestry/largely off road vehicles.

The official Viapass website link is now located under the Network Road Pricing category on the right hand side of the blog.
- Vehicles that do not transport goods (e.g. cranes, bulldozers, escavators) including buses;
- Vintage vehicles.

1 comment:

  1. Nice overview of upcoming Viapass system. What I´m missing is an additional view on the EETS perspective:
    I would not be too surprised if quite soon an new player / OBU will act in the viapass system in competition to Satellic.