As of 1 April 2016 and under the conditions of regional regulations, a toll – known as the kilometre charge – will be due by the holders of vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes used for the transport of goods, in respect of their use of toll roads on the territory of the Regions.
Modern toll charging is characterised by its electronic nature: the toll is charged by means of an electronic registration device (On-Board Unit or OBU), delivered by a service provider and which must be placed and activated in the vehicle. The OBU registers kilometres travelled through satellite positioning technology (GNSS), calculates the charge, and sends all these data to a service provider's server, which will collect the kilometre charge owed and pay it on to the toll chargers, i.e. the Flemish Region, the Brussels Capital Region and the concessionaire of the Walloon Region, SOFICO.
The kilometre charge will replace the Eurovignette for the vehicles concerned.
The Belgian kilometre charge fits in with the initiatives of the European Union in the field of electronic toll charging, which led to the Toll Directive of 17 June 1999 (Directive 1999/62/EC, OJ L 187, 20 July 1999, 42–50), the EETS Directive of 29 April 2004 (Directive 2004/52/EC, OJ L 166, 30 April 2004, 124–143), and the EETS Decision of 6 October 2009 (Decision 2009/750/EC, OJ L 268, 13 October 2009, 11–29).
The EU aims to prevent fragmentation of the market and to establish technical standards to ensure the technical interoperability of the electronic toll charging systems, which, inter alia, are based on satellite-communication technology. This way it can be guaranteed that, on the one hand, service providers gain access to the market for electronic toll charging on a non-discriminatory basis and, on the other hand, that road users subject to the charge can comply with their obligation to pay the kilometre charge in all Member States of the European Union by means of one single OBU and in the context of one single agreement entered into with a service provider.
Development of the kilometre charge in Belgium
Pursuant to the European initiatives, the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels Capital Regions entered into a cooperation agreement on 31 January 2014 with a view to the introduction of the electronic kilometre charge in the three Regions and the creation of a collective legal framework for this. In order to steer this cooperation in the right direction and to achieve as uniform an execution as possible, the interregional entity Viapass was established, as an interregional partnership incorporated under public law and taking the form of a common agency as referred to in article 92bis, § 1 of the special act on institutional reform of 8 August 1980.
In general, Viapass was assigned to manage the cooperation, coordination and deliberation between the Regions regarding the kilometre charging system being introduced by the Regions. In addition, Viapass was specifically charged to enter into, in the name and on behalf of the Regions and SOFICO, a Design, Build, Finance, Maintain and Operate (DBFMO) agreement with a service provider – the Single Service Provider or SSP – which was selected for this collective public contract and which, among other things, had to build and deliver the necessary infrastructure enabling the kilometre charging system and the provision of toll charging services.
Satellic, a public limited liability company, was selected in July 2014 as the Single Service Provider after completion of a negotiation procedure.
Furthermore, Viapass was also charged with the supervision of the performance of the DBFMO agreement and with a set of tasks and competences with regard to the Single Service Provider and the other service providers accepted for the provision of electronic toll services in Belgium.
In implementing the cooperation agreement, the Regions each introduced and regulated the (electronic) kilometre charge on their territory in mid-2015, through:
- the ordinance of the Brussels Capital Region of 29 July 2015 introducing a kilometre charge in the Brussels Capital Region for heavy vehicles intended or used for the transport of goods by road, as a substitute for the Eurovignette (Official Gazette 12 August 2015, 51.305);
- the decree of the Flemish Region of 3 July 2015 introducing a kilometre charge and stopping the charging of the Eurovignette and amending the Flemish Tax Code of 13 December 2013 in that respect (Official Gazette 10 August 2015, 50.803); and
- the decree of the Walloon Region of 16 July 2015 introducing a kilometre charge for the use of roads by heavy goods vehicles (Official Gazette 28 July 2015, 47.827).
Finally, the so-called "toll domain statements" were drafted in implementation of the European and regional regulations. These toll domain statements, which have to be approved by the regional governments, contain the general terms and conditions, rights and obligations, under which the service providers (other than the SSP) are registered and/or accepted to provide electronic toll charging services within the toll domains of the Regions.
The kilometre charging system
The Belgian territory will comprise three toll domains: the toll domain of the Flemish Region, the toll domain of the Brussels Capital Region, and the toll domain managed by SOFICO, to which the management of a part of the Walloon road network has been conceded by the Walloon Region. The toll domains of the Flemish Region and the Brussels Capital Region consist, for now, only of non-conceded roads. For example, the road network conceded to NV Tunnel Liefkenshoek does not fall within the application of the Belgian kilometre charging system.
The kilometre charge levied on non-conceded roads will be a tax, and the kilometre charge levied on conceded roads will be a "retribution" subject to VAT. On the territory of the Walloon Region, the toll will only be levied on the conceded road network of SOFICO.
A tariff equal to zero eurocents is, for now, applicable to part of the road network in Flanders, while a tariff exceeding zero eurocents is applicable to the other roads in the Flemish Region, as well as to the roads in the Brussels Capital Region and the roads of the road network conceded to SOFICO. The tariffs exceeding zero eurocents vary, for now, between EUR 0.074 and EUR 0.292 per kilometre.
Finally, it is important to require all road users subject to the charge to always place and activate an OBU in the vehicle concerned, before making use of the Belgian road network.
The Belgian kilometre charging system functions with four major (groups of) players: the interregional entity Viapass, the toll chargers, the service providers, and the parties subject to the charge.
Viapass is, inter alia, the contact point for the (candidate) service providers and acts in the name and on behalf of the toll chargers for many tasks and competences. It is not only responsible for supervising the Single Service Provider (Satellic), but also ensures the registration of other service providers of electronic toll charging services which are not yet registered in a Member State of the European Union, and the acceptance of service providers in all toll domains of the Belgian kilometre charging system so that they can provide their services there.
The toll chargers are the entities which levy the toll: the Brussels Capital Region, the Flemish Region and SOFICO. The Brussels Capital Region, the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region (with respect to the toll domain of SOFICO) are responsible for regulation, enforcement and sanctions. The toll chargers, together with Viapass and the Walloon Region, enter into an agreement with the service providers of the electronic toll charging, in accordance with the provisions of the various toll domain statements. This agreement determines the services to be provided by the service provider, including collection and payment of the kilometre charge for the benefit of the toll chargers and the compensation for the services provided.
Furthermore, each road user subject to the charge has to enter into a service provision agreement with a service provider of his choice registered and/or accepted in the Belgian kilometre charging system, or with the Single Service Provider (Satellic). The charge is payable by the user of a motorised vehicle or a combination of vehicles, intended or used, whether exclusively or not, for road transport of goods and the maximum permitted total weight of which is in excess of 3.5 tons.
All service providers meeting the registration and acceptance conditions can provide kilometre charging services in the toll domains of the Belgian kilometre charging system, alongside the Single Service Provider.
The kilometre charging system enters into force on 1 April 2016.