E-vignettes coming into force in the Czech Republic
Mid-August, the Senate passed a bill introducing e-vignettes in the Czech Republic from 2021. Drivers will thus be able to pay for the use of some roads online or via a mobile application. Payments linked to a car’s registration number will be recorded by the information system designed for this purpose. The State Transport Infrastructure Fund is currently preparing appropriate tender proceedings to select the most appropriate one.
The law prepared by the Ministry of Transport uses technologies enabling the identification of a vehicle being driven on toll roads directly by its registration number. The payment of a time-based fee can thus be made directly for a specific vehicle, and entered into records kept for this purpose. It will be possible to pay the fee at State Transport Infrastructure Fund distribution network entities or electronically and remotely. This will mainly help short-term and foreign users use the country’s toll roads.
Through video detection, i.e. a CCTV system, it will be possible to compare information on passing vehicles with information contained in the records. The Ministry of Transport considers utilising the current toll system gateways while focusing mainly on vehicles using the road illegally, i.e. without paying a proper time-based fee. The ministry also considers introducing regional vignettes in the future.
The bill also proposes to extend the range of vehicles exempt from the fee to electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Vehicles powered by natural gas and bio-methane should be subject to lower fees.
The transition to the new method of time-based fee payments and related documentation and review will require one-off investment expenditures, especially for the acquisition of a system recording information about time-based fees collected, vehicles exempt from the fee duty by law, and vehicles using toll roads without paying the appropriate fee. Further expenditures will be incurred in building an internet portal and mobile applications, in integrating relevant information systems and in placing control mechanisms directly on the roads. The ministry estimates that operating expenses associated with the new system will amount to about CZK 160–240 million a year. Still, the new system should be more cost-effective than the current one, by CZK 40–120 million a year. The State Transport Infrastructure Fund is currently preparing tender proceedings and technical e-vignette system solutions.
By introducing e-vignettes, the Czech Republic will follow Slovakia’s and Austria’s example. According to the ministry’s calculation and taking into account the relatively low associated costs, the system of e-vignettes will pay off for the Czech Republic even if the proposal currently discussed on the EU level to charge road tolls based on mileage even for vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tons is approved. In this case, the Czech Republic would probably have to entirely abandon its current time-based fees from 2028.