1 March 2004
BERLIN – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s government is to continue to pursue a controversial satellite-based highway toll system on trucks that has been plagued by technical problems and has posed a severe loss of revenue for Berlin.
Sunday’s announcement came after Schroeder’s talks with DaimlerChrysler chief executive Juergen Schrempp and Deutsche Telekom boss Kai-Uwe Ricke.
Those two companies, along with the French motorway operator Cofiroute, comprise the Toll Collect consortium, which was to have put the truck toll system in place on Germany’s 12,000 kilometres of superhighways starting 31 August last year.
Schroeder said the government would rescind its cancellation of the deal with Toll Collect, which Transportation Minister Manfred Stolpe had announced on 17 February.
The German chancellor said he was persuaded that the satellite- based technology was a system that would work.
Ricke said that a scaled-down version of the toll system was now to be launched on 1 January and that the final full-scale system was to go into operation one year later.
He said the consortium’s liability for damages and penalties resulting from the delayed launch of the system was to be resolved in a court of mediation.
Ricke praised the “constructive and trustworthy” talks that had continued with Stolpe despite the two sides’ differences over the issues of liability claims and penalties. He said he was confident that a solution “satisfactory to all sides” would be reached.
Schrempp admitted that what is to be the first satellite-based highway toll system had turned out to be technically more difficult than envisaged and so he could understand the public criticism of the Toll Collect consortium.
He called the delay “regrettable” but said he was convinced the system would work and could have a future on European highways.
On 17 February, in announcing the government’s cancellation of the deal with Toll Collect, Stolpe had said Berlin would be suing the group for major damages.
In his 17 February letter to the consortium cancelling the September 2002 agreement, Stolpe said the delays would mean lost revenues of EUR 6.5 billion after Toll Collect’s final offer foresaw postponing the system by 28 months.
That was a reference to the period between 31 August 2003, when the system was to have been launched, and 1 January 2006, the date which Toll Collect in its latest offer cited as when the system would be fully in place.
The sophisticated system, in which every truck carries an onboard computer to log its location with satellite signals and reports movements by mobile phone, has been plagued by technical problems that have resulted in repeated delays.
Subject: German news