Roads Regulation in Europe: an International Comparison

Roads Regulation in Europe: an International Comparison


Christopher Davis, Oxera Consulting LLP, Agnes Dufour, Oxera Consulting, Pierpaolo Perna, Oxera Consulting


We examine the introduction of new regulatory frameworks for national road authorities in England, France and Italy, and consider the potential future development of regulation across Europe as well as the interface with rail regulation.


Over the last few years, regulatory authorities in England, France and Italy have taken on new responsibilities regarding the monitoring and oversight of national road authorities (NRAs) in their respective countries.

In England, the Department for Transport has introduced a five-year funding cycle for the NRA, Highways England, in the form of a Roads Investment Strategy. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR)—which has regulated the GB rail sector for around 20 years—has taken on new duties under the Infrastructure Act 2015 to monitor the performance and efficiency of Highways England, and to enforce compliance with the Roads Investment Strategy and the company’s licence obligations. The introduction of monitoring by the ORR is part of a wider package of reforms that include greater funding certainty, an increased level of investment (in network capacity), and greater incentives and scope to deliver efficiency savings.

Similarly, in France, the remit of the rail regulator (now ARAFER) has been extended to include roads concessions. Its role in this area is focused on controlling amendments to concession contracts that will have an impact on motorway tolls. The regulator will have no coercive power, but will advise the State, which will be free to choose whether to follow its advice. The regulator will also review the internal rate of return (IRR) of each concession and the concessionaires’ accounts on an annual basis.

In his latest report to Parliament, the head of the Italian regulator (Autorità di regolazione dei trasporti, ART) recognised the importance of England and France in setting a trend towards greater coordination between different mobility platforms. The head of ART explicitly mentioned the recent decision by the British government to extend the ORR’s competencies to strategic roads and motorways, and the French Bill giving more powers to ARAFER. In addition to roads, ART’s competencies extend to rail, airports, ports and local transport.

In the roads sector, ART is responsible for setting the tariff framework for motorways that operate under a price cap. Moreover, it is responsible for the concession framework and for determining the optimal size of motorway concessions. Regarding the latter, ART recently published a report aimed at identifying the network length within which concessions are managed efficiently. ART’s conclusions are likely to have an impact on the future market structure and potentially lead to a less fragmented concession framework.

This paper provides a more detailed international comparison of the regulatory approaches currently in place across Europe, including the scope of regulation, the key issues examined by the regulators, and the interfaces with rail regulation and policy. The paper further considers how these frameworks might be expected to develop in the future, and discusses the potential for additional EU-wide policy on roads regulation and taxes (e.g. a roads package).


Association for European Transport