J.-L. Feito, President - ASECAP & ASETA

Concessionaires share their best practices and are ready to meet the future challenges of EU mobility

The congress was organized by ASECAP in collaboration with Norvegfinans - Norwegian Road Financing Companies Association, with Q-Free, GSA and Norbit as the main sponsors.

How to finance motorways during economic recession

The first day of the congress was dedicated to a discussion about future road transport policy between ASECAP members and representatives from European Commission, European Investment Bank, Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications. Prior observations had been given to possibilities of financing expensive highway projects in current situation of economic stagnation and reduced investments undertakings, which will require much ingenuity in financing. Possible solutions should be searched for in PPP models combined with EIB and structural funds. Mrs. Tsingou from EIB also acknowledged the efficiency of PPP and announced that EIB will revise its lending policy. French representative also presented the possibility of financing specific projects by extension of the concession period. It was also discussed about the Commission Decision of 6 October 2009 regarding the definition of EETS and further steps that need to be undertaken in order for EETS to come into reality.

Over the years, the annual ASECAP Study and Information Days have developed from an event mainly for the ASECAP members and their representatives, to the number one event for the European Tolling Industry. Here we meet representatives from ministries and other public authorities, suppliers of tolling equipment and solutions, service companies, consultants and of course top managers and key experts from the ASECAP members – the European tolling companies.

The demand for road transport services is growing, and this is not only a volume growth, it is also accompanied by strong requirements to the quality of the road infrastructure. The increased globalization and cross-border traffic goes hand-in-hand with the European integration. Safe, fast and efficient travel is required, locally and for long-distance. The title of this conference – “Roles of states and concessions in building a safe, smart and clean transport policy for Europe” – indicates that the requirements for transport services can only be met together by states and concessionaires.

The event has delivered a strong message assessing the concessionaires’ readiness and willingness to contribute to the shaping of sustainable policies for efficient EU mobility solutions. This approach has been welcomed and supported by the EU policy makers who attended this event. The success of the congress has proved once again that PPP schemes and road concessions offer the best model to ensure smart, cleaner and safer roads through the European Union.

Interoperability

Among several issues at stake, all relevant stakeholders together with Director Grillo-Pasquarelli (European Commission DG MOVE) and national ministries representatives were invited to discuss the future of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) and the sensitive question on how to bridge the gap between the provisions defined in the Decision 2009/750 and their effective implementation into the different market realities.

Interoperability is a complicated process and cannot be compared to mobile telephony which has hundreds of millions of users that EETS does not have. The question that arises is who is going to finance upgrade and standardization of so many different systems. The concessionaires are concerned because there is no real business case behind the EETS Decision. They also believe that the Decision should firstly apply to those countries that are already prepared for interoperability, and then later to others. Otherwise we risk ending up with a mixture of existing systems that we will call the EETS, which is not a new road that we try to take.

Research conducted by SHELL, potential EETS Service Provider, indicated that users are willing to pay for EETS service, and are in need for such a service as long as it is conducted in qualitative, efficient and fair way. The next EETS Regulatory Committee meeting will be held on June 28, 2010 when further steps will be determined.

Technical presentations

The second day of the congress was dedicated to technical presentations divided in four sessions :

  • Toll roads safety actions in a regional and European perspective;
  • ITS - political commitment and effective deployment;
  • Latest tolling, its technologies and added value services;
  • Communication strategies & Marketing best practices

On ITS, ASECAP reiterated its strong support to the EU political commitment in terms of ITS deployment policies and to the forthcoming Directive on Intelligent Transport Systems to be adopted shortly. However, ASECAP reminded to policy-makers that all choices must be driven by sound business models and by a concrete assessment of users needs. Toll concessionaires proved that perfect business cases exist in the tolling sector and therefore reminded that they are ready to offer their field expertise and knowledge for a successful deployment of these systems. A. E. Jensen, rapporteur on the ITS Directive for the Transport Committee of the European Parliament, praised the role played by the concessions’ industry that has at its disposal large resources to invest in this field.

The congress was also the occasion for road operators to underline once again that safety and environment protection are already concrete elements in their daily infrastructure management. ASECAP members recalled that they do operate the most and qualitatively best part of the TENs roads with the highest safety and green performances thanks to the resources and human skills devoted through research and implementation.

It is emphasized once more that the most dangerous of all are the rural roads. Mr. Grillo-Pasquarelli reminded that there is a big difference in safety levels in different EU countries and that a goal to reach a higher level of security is not going to be an easy task, especially in the context of deficiency of financial resources. The issue of safety is related to education, health, environment, employment and police activity and should be observed through a wide spectrum of actions.

Finally, in several technical and interactive sessions, close to 50 speakers from the conceded world presented best practices and brainstormed on innovative approaches in terms of tolling technologies, green infrastructures, safety operations and ITS applications. Mr. Goran Kezunović, form Rijeka – Zagreb Motorways represented Croatia on this occasion in the session Latest tolling, its technologies and added value services, with the presentation of Demerje cashless toll collection station.

ASECAP invited all the stakeholders to meet again next year for the 39th edition of the ASECAP Days that will be organized for the first time in Brussels (29-31 May 2011), at the heart of the EU decision-making process.

The program is available on www.asecap.com
and proceedings on www.asecap.com/english/pubinf-contributions-en.html

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