Trucking hell in Tyrol

Moves to stop so many trucks traveling through the busy Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy have angered both sides, and raised alarm in Brussels.

Austrias Tyrol region rolled out new traffic restrictions earlier this month, barring large trucks from leaving the motorway during set times.

Tyrol insists its acting to protect its people from the scourge of thousands of heavy transport trucks.

“Overcrowding in these areas in the last month represents a severe impairment of the quality of life and the security of the Tyrolean people and our guests,” said a spokesperson for the regional government.

As well as unnerving the EU, the traffic restrictions are also angering industry on both sides of the Alps.

The six-month pilot project is the latest in a series of emergency measures the Austrian region has implemented to curb the impact of freight traffic thundering toward the Brenner Pass. Other efforts include weekend and night bans, driving bans for specific sectors and the most polluting vehicles, and strict traffic limits.

But the restrictions challenge one of the EUs core principles: the free movement of goods. Thats forcing Brussels to react.

As well as unnerving the EU, the traffic restrictions are also angering industry on both sides of the Alps.

“The block clearances alone lead to kilometer-long traffic jams and waiting times of three to five hours on the German side,” said Niels Beuck, director of the German logistics association DSLV. “The restrictions on transit traffic practiced by Austria constitute a barrier for the free movement of goods in Europe on one of the most important north-south links.”

German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer | Kay Nietfeld/AFP via Getty Images

Crisis talks

Tyrols announcement of more restrictions, including an intensification of bans for the most polluting vehicles in late October and a driving ban for new categories of goods in 2020, have injected new urgency into the debate.

At a July meeting in Berlin, German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and his Austrian counterpart Andreas Reichhardt agreed with regional leaders from Bavaria and Tyrol to find common ground on a toll rate for trucks that would raise costs to dent the routes attraction.

The leaders committed to come up with a first draft at an expert meeting planned for the end of August, as a part of a 10-point plan that will “create incentives for a shift from road to rail.”

Thats a win for the Tyrol government, which has long lobbied its neighbors to raise road charges.

Last year marked the first time the volume of traffic passing through the Brenner surpassed that on French and Swiss Alpine passes combined — 2.4 million trucks passed through Brenner, while 2.37 million trucks opted for one of the other six main Alpine passages. Thats up from 1.56 million trucks in 2000.

“The numbers were seen as a problem when Austria joined the EU [in 1995],” said Markus Gansterer, policy officer for green mobility NGO VCÖ. “Now the problem is unbearable.”

Switzerland has been more successful in reducing traffic and shifting goods from road to rail. But unlike Switzerland, Austria is an EU member. “[The Swiss] do not have to obey all the rules of the EU,” Gansterer said.

Commission in a bind

Austrias restrictions on transit traffic challenge one of the EUs core principles — the freedom of movement.

“Discussions on the unilateral measures announced by Tyrol will continue with Austrian authorities,” a European Commission spokesperson said. The Commission is already investigating one of Austrias latest emergency measures, the imposition of sectoral bans — covering goods like paper, cement, plaster, pipes, grain and liquid petroleum — which the country sent the Commissions way in July.

Brussels has to balance concerns over health and environment against the freedom of movement.

The EU is in a difficult position over the Brenner Pass | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

The transit traffic “creates a real air quality issue,” a CommissiRead More – Source