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The GO-Box in Austria PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

USE OF THE GO-BOX IN AUSTRIA (FOR VEHICLES OVER 3.5 TONS)

By Gerry and Janet Freeman, with notes from Barry and Margaret Williamson

August 2010

Introduction by Barry and Margaret Williamson

Gerry and Janet Freeman wrote the following notes after motorhoming through Austria, en route from Germany to Slovenia.

Their motorhome is over 3.5 tons, so to use the motorways and expressways of Austria they would have needed to buy, fit and put money into a GO-Box. Uncertainty arose over which roads were counted as motorways and expressways; there is also uncertainty about where and how to purchase a GO-Box. There is even uncertainty about where to get relevant information.

Money is loaded into the GO-Box using your credit card, guessing how much may be needed for the planned journey. Money is deducted from the credit card electronically as the GO-Box passes under gantries along the defined roads. There is also uncertainty about how and where to return the GO-Box and retrieve any unused money.

Although they don't mention it, Gerry and Janet would also have needed to know (and have proof of) their vehicle's emission category, since this affects the toll paid.

Vehicles that use Austria's motorways and express ways regularly (Austrians, presumably, and commercial vehicles passing through) can pre-pay by linking their GO-Box directly to a bank account (?*!) so that it does not need to be charged or discharged by hand.

Vehicles under 3.5 tons avoid all this hassle: they are only required to buy a vignette. This is something we did when we drove through Austria from Slovenia to Germany in April this year. We had to buy a 10-day vignette (the minimum period) for €7.50, though we crossed the country in a few hours; in fact, no country seems to sell a one-day transit visa. Like Gerry and Janet, we had problems finding a place that sold the vignette - there was nothing on the Slovenian/Austrian border and we were down the Austrian motorway before we found a service area with vignettes on sale (but not GO-Boxes).

Gerry writes:

“I contacted you earlier this year prior to our planned trip to Europe, which included travelling through Austria with our van which is over 3.5 tonnes. Here is the update that I promised.

Coming from the Berchtesgaden area, having spent three nights on the excellent Campingplatz Grafenlehen site which is within easy walking distance of the Jenner lift and Lake Konigssee, we took the 21 (in Germany) which became the 178 at the Austrian border, which is where our GO-Box 'problems' started.

Whilst planning this trip I made a lot of enquiries about the need for a Box if we were just travelling through Austria from Germany to Italy without going onto toll roads. Looking at the maps, there did not appear to be any toll roads or 'expressways' on the route we were taking. I even contacted ASFiNAG (the company which operates the toll system) for information. On their leaflet it states 'the toll label requirement starts at the national border'. But elsewhere in the leaflet, under the heading 'Roads subject to toll' it says 'Toll labels are compulsory on all motorways and expressways'. So if the road at the national border is not a toll road why do you need a vignette or GO-Box?

To be on the safe side and to avoid a possible fine we decided to bite the bullet and purchase a Box (at a cost of up to 100 euros?) at the border or the first opportunity in Austria. We were told to look out for 'GO' signs and that garages near the border sold them.

Nothing at the border, so a few kilometres into Austria we pulled into a garage: they did not sell them. A few more kilometres and we passed a police car at the side of the road with the officer stood at the side watching the traffic. The stress levels were rising with the thought of heavy fines!

A few more kilometres and no 'GO' signs to be seen and after making enquiries at another garage without success we decided to drive back to see if the police car was still there to enquire with the officer. Luckily he was still there and spoke English. He did not know of anywhere in the area that sold GO-Boxes and suggested the only place to get one would be on the motorway, which was miles away and in the wrong direction. Why would we spend half a day making a round trip of many miles, using up valuable diesel, to get something we may not really need, at great expense? The stress levels were going through the roof!

We decided to carry on to our planned overnight stop near Zell-am-See and found a camp site at Bruck. This is quite a large site with reps from Key Camp, Euro Camp, etc on site. I spoke to the English reps who had lived in the country for several years. They were very helpful and after showing them our intended route through Austria they assured me that we would not be using any motorways, so we would not need a 'GO-Box'. The stress disappeared, now we could enjoy the beautiful surroundings!

Next morning we took the 168 from Bruck to Mittersil, turning left onto the 108, through the Felbertauern-tunnel (10 euros), down to Lienz, then the 100 to the Italian border. What a massive change at the border, from the immaculate smooth and clean Austrian roads and buildings to the rough, neglected, pot-holed roads and run-down buildings in Italy! To be fair to Italy it is a beautiful country and we enjoyed visiting Venice, despite getting stranded in Venice due to a ferry workers' strike which meant having to find a hotel for the night (100 euros, later reduced to 80 as they took pity on us) and getting back to our camp site at Jesolo the following morning. All credit to Camping Parco Caprero at Jesolo - when hearing about the strike they did not charge us for the night we were stranded at Venice, even though the van was still on site! An unexpected but welcome gesture of good will.

But back to 'GO-Boxes'. Had we been able to purchase a Box on entering Austria we would have needed to get a refund on unused credit, which in our case would have been the full amount of 75 or 100 euros (whatever the cost of purchase) as we had not been on any toll roads, so we kept a look out from Lienz to the border, and for some kilometres after the border into Italy, but there was nowhere at all that dealt with 'GO-Boxes', so we would have been stuck with a box we could not use, at great expense, which is non-transferrable to another vehicle, and the only way to get a refund is in person at a 'GO' outlet in Austria (if you can find one!).

It is a great shame that the lack of clear information available about the legal requirement of driving in Austria, especially with a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes, is deterring people from visiting this beautiful country. Although I am fairly sure, with the information I was able to gather, that I was not breaking the law whilst on non-motorway roads, I still felt uncomfortable, not having seen it confirmed in an official document, and therefore only spent one night instead of several before moving on to Italy. I suppose it is in ASFiNAG's interest to sell as many GO-Boxes as possible, so the information in their leaflet seems contradictory.

Anyway, I apologise for the length of this message. We had a wonderful time, and an eventful one, including two days of tropical thunderstorms which flooded the site we were on at Port Grimaud (near St Tropez in Southern France) and washing away roads and a village a few kilometres away . . . but that's another story!

Happy camping . . .

Gerry and Janet Freeman

Notes from Barry and Margaret

After reading this unhappy experience, and owning a 6-ton motorhome ourselves, we decided to do some research on the dreaded GO-Box, as we realised that we had been avoiding Austria. The Czech Republic introduced the same system from July 2010 (see http://www.premid.cz/index.php?id=291&L=0), as did Slovakia from January 2010 (amid much chaos at their borders – see http://www.sktoday.com/content/2089_union-slovak-motor-carriers-new-road-toll-system-not-ready ).

We started with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Travel Advice for Austria:

“If you use Austrian motorways ('Autobahn') and 'S' roads you must display a Motorway Vignette on the inside of the windshield of your vehicle as you enter Austria. Failure to have one will mean a heavy on-the-spot fine. Motorway Vignettes are obtainable at all major border crossings into Austria and at larger petrol stations.

All vehicles above 3.5 tonnes maximum permitted laden weight and using the Austrian network of motorways and expressways are required to attach a small device - called the 'GO-Box' - to their windscreen. Note that this includes larger private vehicles such as motor caravans that are above the weight limit. If your vehicle is close to the weight limit you are advised to carry documentation confirming the maximum permitted laden weight. If your registration documents do not clearly state this, you will need to produce alternative certification e.g. from a weighbridge.

The GO-Box uses the high frequency range to communicate with the around 400 fixed-installation toll points covering the whole of Austria, making it possible to effect an automatic toll deduction without slowing down or stopping the flow of traffic. The on-board devices can be obtained for a one-off handling fee of Euro 5.00 at approximately 220 sales centres in Austria and in neighbouring countries, or via the Internet. For further information, visit the website at: www.go-maut.at."  

Using this website, (it's in German – no surprise there – but it does have a version in English), we found the following:

List of GO-Box Outlets in Austria and Germany, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia:

The GO-Box itself costs €5 and there are the following number of outlets in countries bordering Austria, presumably near the border: 11 in Germany, 3 in Italy, 1 in Slovenia and 1 in Hungary. And over 200 in Austria itself. See:

http://www.go-maut.at/go/overview_pos.asp?Navi=&ID=41&RootCat=3999&Company=

Map of Motorways (A roads) and Expressways (S roads) where the GO-Box is Required:

www.go-maut.at/go/Article.asp?ID=347&Navi=3 (click on the small map to make it full screen).

Toll Rates According to Emission Category:

Tolls work out at about €0.15 per kilometre for a 2-axle vehicle (eg a motorhome), depending  on the emission category. About €75 should take you across Austria, west to east or vice-versa!

www.asfinag.at/go-box-vehicles-over-3.5t-gross-weight

List of Relevant Emission Categories:

  EURO emission classes EURO EEV & VI
  EURO emission classes EURO IV & V
  EURO emission classes EURO 0 to III

Additional Tolls:

In addition to the charges for the GO-box or the vignette, there are charges for some of the tunnels. For example, under 3.5 tons, we paid €6.50 to pass through the Karawanken tunnel under the Julian Alps from Slovenia into Austria. It was worth it!

Enforcement:

There are around 130GoBox_3.jpg roadside enforcement units along the toll road network. The mobile toll enforcement officers (SKD) as well as Enforcement Centre ensure correct toll collection and prosecution of offences. In the absence of a GO-Box or in the presence of incorrect usage of the GO-Box (incorrect placement in the windscreen, incorrect programming, incorrect emission category, etc), a 'substitute toll' and possibly a fine are charged by the SKD.

Entitlement of the Toll Enforcement Officers

We read that the Toll Enforcement Officers are entitled by law to:

  • "stop drivers using clearly visible and audible signals (such as blue flashing lights, hand-held stop signs, neon signage displayed in the rear of the inspection vehicle),
  • determine the driver's and the registered owner's identity,
  • inspect the vehicle, especially the on-board unit for electronic toll collecGoBox_1.jpgtion, the (correct) attachment of the toll sticker, the tachograph, the odometer and the EC control device,
  • order and accept payment of substitute tolls and fines,
  • if necessary, take the appropriate measures to prevent vehicles from continuing their trip (using, for instance, wheel clamps or by confiscating the vehicle documents),
  • take the appropriate measures to initiate administrative penal proceedings and/or accept a provisional security deposit on behalf of the authorities.
  • In the course of their inspection trips, toll enforcement officers advise, consult and assist all users of Austria's primary road network (providing first aid, securing the scene of an accident and/or providing assistance in the event of traffic jams, etc.).

Alongside the manual checks conducted by toll enforcement officers, automatic checks are undertaken by inspectionGoBox_2.jpgcameras installed on some 100 road sections along Austria's motorway network. Without impacting the free flow of traffic, these cameras automatically categorize the vehicles passing by (i.e. determine the number of axles) and check whether tolls have been properly paid. Portable monitoring equipment is also used which can be set up as required on any toll section.

If a discrepancy giving reason for suspicion is detected in the course of such automatic checks, a picture of the respective vehicle is taken and sent to headquarters for further verification. Depending on the findings, the relevant information is either sent to the toll enforcement officers or a written request for payment of a substitute toll is sent to the respective vehicle owner."

Conclusion drawn by Barry and Margaret

Take Gerry and Janet's example and keep off motorways and expressways in Austria (as well as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia) or get a smaller motorhome if you are over 3.5 tons or give yourself plenty of time, patience and money when travelling through these three countries and learn the local language!