All 2,000km (1,200mi) of Austria’s motorways are being wired for DSRC (shortrange electronic tolling), the immediate application of which is a nationwide toll system for trucks of over 3.5t (7.7k pd). 400 overhead gantries of equipment are going in for fire-up Jan 1, 2004. It will be the first national motorway system with full DSRC coverage. Only the old tollroads and toll tunnels retain conventional toll plazas.
All the new tolling is with an electronic transponder or by off-road payment, normally by internet or at one of some 200 point of sale terminals, mostly located at gas stations. When paying the toll the trucker enters his car number plate which then goes on a white list of payers. When the vehicle is seen on the road by cameras mounted on overhead gantries it is matched against the white list.
Six particularly heavily trafficked places will have staffed toll service centers as well as the point of sale terminals.
Austria is replacing the flatrate truck “vignette” or pass with regular per-mile tolls (maut in german.) The truck toll will be 13c/km (20c/mi), 18c/km (29c/mi) and 27c/km (43c/mi) for the different sizes of trucks. Value Added Tax goes on top of that. Cars still pay for an annual vignette ($75) or buy ten-day vignettes for use of the motorways, but with the toll infrastructure in place it would seem a logical next step to extend the truck toll system to cars.
The system brand name is GO, apparently a takeoff of the english word that in Austria has connotations of dynamism. The DSRC toll system using the European standard CEN-TC278 5.8GHz passive backscatter transponders and they are called “GO-boxes”! They are manufactured by Q-Free of Norway.
Roadside equipment is from Kapsch of Austria which worked on system design with Autostrade of Rome. The nationwide truck toll (LKW-maut in german) on the motorways is due to start Jan 1 2004. Operations are contracted to EUROPPASS LKW-Mautsystem GbmH, an Autostrade subsidiary. (The contract was signed 25 June 2002.)
In a Q&A on its website a Q asks why the shortrange transponder system is being used rather than the “more efficient (and) dynamic” GPS/GSM system of the type being implemented in Germany. The official A: “The microwave (DSRC) system is a cost-efficient, time-saving, tried and tested. The costs of on-board units or GO-Boxes are lower compared with the units required for a GPS/ GSM system and they need not be installed in workshops. The microwave system grants (gains?) higher acceptance due to its user friendliness. Additionally, this state-of-the-art technology ensures a high level of performance concerning the recognition of system violations.”
Autostrade’s DSRC contract was fiercely denounced by AGES, a consortium of oil companies, a card company, and road service outfits which proposed a German-style GPS/GSM system. It claimed that ASFINAG’s embrace of Autostrade’s DSRC would cost motorists hundreds of millions of extra expense as well as incompatibility with the German system.
AGES also lost out in Germany but to Daimler.
Austria’s electronic toll system involves some 400 toll equipment gantries, or “portals” as the tollster refers to them, which will allow full open road tolling (ORT) throughout the system. Of large square section steel design they are located on the mainline, as on ORT applications in Melbourne CityLink and the Cross Israel Highway, rather than on the ramps as on 407-ETR in Toronto.
The gantries contain (1) vehicle detection and classification equipment using lasers (2) antennas for waking the transponders, locating the vehicle in the lane and communicating account details, and (3) cameras for enforcement. The transponders provide the driver with an OK-beep when they have registered a toll transaction. They have a small LED display activated by a button. The display will show the amount of a toll just incurred.
The tollster has also been doing camera or “video” tolling at its established toll plazas. A Siemens-PAT team installed license plate readers in a single toll lane format at four toll plazas to speed customers with vignette passes. They claim 98% success in automatic license plate reads. But cars must wait on a green signal, keep two car lengths from one another, have a clean license plate, and not exceed 25km/hr. The contract specified 93% read success.
ASFINAG plans its fully wired highway system to go beyond tolling and provide messaging, navigation and other “intelligent” services to drivers. Major efforts are being made to improve fog warning, reduce ice, stop wrong-way entries, monitor excessive speed, prevent fall-asleep accidents, and the like. ASFINAG’s website ranks as the third most used in the country, it claims.
Interoperability is tough to attain in Europe. The Swiss toll operator OZD has an agreement with Austria for its TRIPON OBUs to operate in Austria, but GO-boxes from Austria cannot yet be accommodated on the Swiss system because of their main reliance on odometer reads and their small number of DSRC antennas and readers. ASFINAG is negotiating with French tollsters to accept GO-boxes. Interoperability with Germany and Italy is some time off.
BACKGROUND: Austria in the center of central Europe has 8.1m pop on 83k sq km (32k sq mi). It most nearly approximates the US state of Virginia (pop 7m on 40k sq mi) in density, and also in its highway system. Austria has 2112km (1312mi) of motorway to Virginia’s 2150km (1336mi). Virginia however has far more motor vehicles: 6m vs Austria’s 4m. Of the 2,112km of Austrian motorway 210km are bridging and 160km are tunnels, an indication of the mountainous terrain.The most direct trucking routes between Germany and Italy go through Austria and between Hungary and the Balkans and western Europe.
Traffic volumes on Austrian highways are quite low by US standards with few over 50k veh/day but the percentage annual growth has been 4 to 5%. The great unknown is the growth of traffic as eastern Europe and the balkans motorize and increase their involvement in the west European economy and travel for tourism into the Alps, France and Italy.
The Austrian tollways are managed by ASFINAG, a government holding company for OSAG and Alpen Strassen, companies which in turn were formed from consolidation of an original six tollsters. ASG has 35% investor ownership and OSAG minor private interests. Management of the whole national network has been in the hands of ASFINAG since 1997 when the government in Vienna legislated to transfer assets from the Federal Roads Administration to the toll company. The corporate form is supposed to insulate it from pork barrel politics, provide commercial standards of accounting and accountability, while allowing investors to be brought in to help with risk capital.
With all vehicles ASFINAG’s roads do about 20b vehicle-km/yr, about half teh total vehicle-miles taveled in the country. ASFINAG has been getting about $310m/yr from vignette or sticker-pass sales and about $260m from tolls – an average of 90k/day – but the balance will of course tilt increasingly to tolls in 2004. The new tolls will also help fund a major reconstruction and extension of motorways and help manage the system which has been part-toll, part-tax financed. The focus is on filling gaps in a planned system in a major burst of new construction lasting through 2008 with financing coming from the new maut. 42km (26km) of new motorway are being opened this year. A number of single tube 2-directional tunnels are being duplicated, the oldest segments of motorway completely rebuilt and the busiest are being third-laned. Around Vienna there is major construction to create an Outer Ring or beltway. 1,700km (5.6m ft) of easily breached aluminum crash barrier of earlier years is being replaced nationwide with more robust steel and concrete barrier. With ASFINAG’s reliance on the vignette und mauten der Austrian government now provides nicht financial support to road construction or operations. Fuel taxes are regarded as a general source of revenue unrelated to roads.
Since 1 Jan 1997 every vehicle up to 12t (26.5k pd) has been required to have a “vignette” or sticker pass to drive on motorways and on several schnellstrassen, fastroads or expressways. There are five established toll routes with conventional cash and electronic tolling: A9 Pyhrn (35km) and A10 Tauern (47km) motorways, the A13 Brenner motorway and tunnel (34km), and the A11 Karawanken tunnel (10km) and the S16 Arlberg expressway (16km). The conventionally tolled segments total about 141km (88mi) total and are operated by ASFINAG subsidiaries OSAG and ASG. However ASFINAG is consolidating the activities of the subsidiaries and they seem likely to lose their separate identifies.
Austrians get the prize for the world’s shortest tollroads operated by tollsters with the world’s longest names. ASFINAG is Autobahnen und Schnellstrssen Finanzierungs Aktiengesellschaft and OSAG is the Osterreichische Autobahnen und Schnellstrassen Gesellschaft. A spittoon is recommended for those proceeding beyond pronunciation of the acronyms. (www.go-maut.at, http://www.asfinag.at ) TOLLROADSnews 2003-08-29
ADDITION 2005-03-03: Construction cost of the nationwide truck toll system for Austria is about $340m (E260m) using 2005-03 exchange rate $1.3=E1.