German road toll plan gets go-ahead despite EU concern

Berlin highway at dusk - file pic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Germany wants the new charges to help pay for road maintenance

The German government has approved plans for a controversial road toll which will include charging foreigners for using the famous Autobahn network.

The toll badge will cost up to €130 (£103; $162) a year, depending on a car's age, engine size and emissions.

German motorists will pay tolls for local roads as well as the Autobahn motorways. But that will be offset by a cut in their motor vehicle tax.

The European Commission has warned that the new toll may be discriminatory.

A letter from EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, quoted by German media, says the offset scheme for German drivers - to spare them additional road costs - may discriminate against foreigners, thereby violating EU law.

The toll - known in German as "Pkw-Maut" - is not yet law. The plan is to introduce it in 2016.

The Social Democrats (SPD), in a coalition led by the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), cautioned that important details would still have to be hammered out in parliament.

"The Pkw-Maut won't leave the Bundestag [lower house] in the form in which it arrived," said Soren Bartol, a senior SPD politician.

The plan presented by Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt gives foreign drivers the option of buying a 10-day toll badge for €10 or a two-month one for €20.

Camper vans will be taxed, along with cars. But motorbikes, electric cars, adapted cars for the disabled and ambulances will all be exempt.

Mr Dobrindt, of the CSU, said the new toll could generate €500m annually to spend on road infrastructure.

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