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Slovenia will start procedures for introducing 7-day vignettes

The Government of the Republic of Slovenia discussed the report on the introduction of shorter-period vignettes and adopted a conclusion proposing the National Assembly to amend the Public Roads Act – abolish the sale of six-month introduce 7-day vignettes. It also set the new prices: EUR 15 for 7-day vignettes and EUR 95 for annual ones. The prices for motorcycles will equal a half of the price for passenger cars. The Government instructed Ministry of Transport and DARS d.d. to undertake all necessary steps for the introduction of weekly vignettes in the planned deadline.

 

This was an economically justified decision of the Government. It is important for our country to improve the image of Slovenian public finances by ensuring the release of cohesion funds. We would also like to prevent any threats to the tourist season in this difficult economic period, as Slovenia wishes to remain a tourist-friendly country.

 

On 1 July 2008, Slovenia introduced obligatory use of annual or six-month vignettes for all vehicles whose maximum weight does not exceed 3 500 tons. Vignettes are to be used on all motorways and expressways in the Republic of Slovenia which are managed and maintained by DARS d.d. By introducing this system, a “Swiss model” of tolling was set up. This model is characterised by offering a relatively cheaper price for using Slovenian road network to its frequent users, as the cost of an annual vignette was relatively low. Consequently, occasional users, particularly foreign citizens who use Slovenian motorway network only for transit, started voicing increasing demands that vignettes for shorter period of time should be introduced and that their price should be proportionally lower. These users, whose interests were mainly represented by the neighbouring countries, were of the opinion that Slovenian vignettes cause great inequalities in treatment of drivers, since a six-month vignette at a price of EUR 35 is too much for those drivers who use the Slovenian motorway network only occasionally or who only pass shorter sections of our motorways.

 

The introduction of this tolling system was the basis for a decision of the European Commission to send a first formal notice in the beginning of October 2008, drawing attention to the discriminatory treatment of other EU citizens and foreign residents who only use Slovenian roads occasionally. The Commission deemed that these persons must pay a non-proportional toll prices for transit and are therefore in disadvantaged position compared to Slovenians. On the basis of this decision, European Commission froze the procedure for the allocation of funds for constructing motorway section Slivnica – Draženci (totalling EUR 38 million) and interrupted all further procedures for other sections.

 

An inter-governmental working group for the preparation of a proposal for financing motorway and road programmes and tolling – which was founded by the Government on 10 December 2008 – presented a report on 31 January 2009 containing the proposals for various measures ensuring the sustainability of the tolling system.

 

On 19 February 2009, the Government adopted one of the measures which were necessary to stabilise in the short term the financial structure of National Motorway Construction Programme in Republic of Slovenia (NPIA) by deciding that the framework of concession charges should be transferred to the part of the DARS profit for 2008 which exceeds the level of acknowledged return on equity, as laid down in concession agreement. This consequently meant that this part of profit shall be transferred to the account of constructing motorways and it shall be used for financing NPIA.

 

Government also adopted measures regarding the introduction of short-term vignettes, thus meeting conditions for the release of frozen cohesion funds. We would like to underline that tolling falls under the competences of each Member State and that when setting the price of vignettes, Slovenia took into consideration both its existing commitments and the future sustainability of the system of implementing motorway programme. Various simulations were prepared, showing that a deficit of around EUR 11 million compared to the expected income of the existing vignette model will be generated after the introduction of a 7-day vignette at a price of EUR 15 on 1 July 2009. The deficit is expected to increase to EUR 18 million in 2010.

 

Despite this data, Slovenia cannot afford to lose in this difficult economic period the resources from the European Union or jeopardise the tourist season, hence it adopted the decision to commence procedures for the introduction of daily vignettes priced at EUR 15.