Tolls on the autobahn? Germany counts cost of failed plan | News | DW | 25.06.2019
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Tolls on the autobahn? Germany counts cost of failed plan

A scheme to introduce tolls on highways was meant to provide a financial windfall for the German government. Instead, it left a €53 million-sized hole in the public purse. Lawmakers want answers.

Germany's failed car toll project cost the federal transport ministry €53,601,435 according to government documents. These costs pertain to the preparation and implementation period from 2014 to the present.

The country's embattled transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, said the information would be made available to lawmakers, unedited, so they could better prepare to grill him on the project's apparent failure in parliament on Tuesday afternoon. 

Scheuer, a member of Bavaria's conservative CSU, said it was personally important to him "to comprehensively and transparently inform the German Bundestag about the contracts." 

This move from Scheuer followed pressure from the opposition to disclose details. 

Read more:  German opposition demand bungled toll contract details

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) last week ruled against the plan in its current form over discrimination concerns.  German critics of the toll, including the Social Democrats — junior partners in the grand coalition — had argued since the plan's inception that European courts would torpedo the proposal.

'Tax on foreigners'

Under the scheme — which was due to be introduced in October 2020 — all motorway users would have been charged a levy. But German-registered motorists would have been compensated in the form of a rebate on vehicle tax; the ECJ ruled that this would unfairly disadvantage non-German Europeans. 

Austrian Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried slammed the measure as a "foreigner toll."

Opportunity costs, canceled contracts

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country would also have to revise its budgets for 2020, which had foreseen annual government revenue of up to 500 million euros from the toll.  

Contracts with toll system provider Kapsch and ticket sales specialist CTS Eventim were canceled and planned jobs, some of which had already been filled, have been scrapped.

Scheuer became the driving force behind the toll in 2018 when he took over the transport ministry from fellow CSU politician Alexander Dobrindt, who initially floated the policy. 

Tit-for-tat in Tirol

Meanwhile, Scheuer's Transport Ministry is planning to take Austria to court in a similar case, after country roads were closed to German drivers in the state of Tirol, calling the measure "deeply discriminatory." 

kw/msh (dpa, Reuters) 

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