EC road tax threat to haulage firms

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BRUSSELS - Road hauliers using European motorways may have to buy a road tax disc to enable them to do so in the future, writes Sarah Lambert.

The European Commission, responding to a German request, yesterday proposed legislation that would enable member states to charge lorries for using national motorways.

Some countries, such as France, already have an extensive system of motorway tolls and would keep that arrangement.

But in countries such as Spain, where only some motorways are toll roads, and Germany, where there is at present no charge on lorries in transit, member states would be free to introduce a system of discs valid for a day, month or year as appropriate.

The commission can only propose such legislation. A decision on whether to implement it will have to be taken by EC transport ministers and can then only be passed if a majority agree.

A minimum rate of 929 ecus (pounds 725) a year per 40 tonnes for each disc has been proposed.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association complained that the idea was 'nonsensical' and would amount to double taxation for British lorries. 'I thought the barriers were supposed to be coming down, not going up,' he added.