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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Ministry of Transport wants to examine the decision on the car toll

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The Federal Ministry of Transport wants to examine an arbitration decision in the failed car toll dispute. A “partial award” had been issued, a ministry spokesman confirmed Saturday in Berlin on request.

“Certain aspects of the reason for the claim are addressed, but not the amount of the claim. The court also noted potential claims for damages by the federal government.” The procedure is confidential and a decision must now be made on how to proceed.

The night before, the operating companies CTS Eventim and Kapsch TrafficCom, which were actually planned, announced that the arbitral tribunal had established a claim for damages and reimbursement of expenses against the Federal Republic. In the second phase of the arbitration that follows, the amount of the claim will be decided.

The car toll, a prestigious CSU project, was stopped in June 2019 by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as illegal. The planned operators are demanding €560 million in damages after the federal government terminated the contracts following the verdict. The federal government and the Minister of Transport responsible at the time, Andreas Scheuer (CSU), had rejected the claims and arbitration procedures followed. The Ministry of Transport is now headed by Volker Wissing (FDP).

The arbitral tribunal confirmed that the claims brought by their Autoticket joint venture, which was created for the toll, “essentially exist,” Kapsch and CTS Eventim said. This follows from the interim award that was sent to the operating parties on Friday.

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Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Transport was not allowed to terminate the contract “unilaterally and without compensation”. With the arbitration award, the alleged cause of termination due to “bad performance” was also rejected.

Scheuer had repeatedly emphasized that the operators were not entitled to compensation. They would have failed to perform the contractual services and, even after termination, willfully and in bad faith violated the contracts. Therefore, these were terminated for several valid reasons. In this case, the contractual situation is “in favor of the federal government”.

Scheuer has always denied the accusations.

The operating companies had argued, however, that their subsidiary Autoticket was entitled to lost profits during the period of the contract in the present case of termination of the contract: twelve years was claimed. In addition, the operator contract provides for compensation for “termination costs”, which also include claims for damages from subcontractors.

Scheuer’s actions had occupied a commission of inquiry in the Bundestag during the previous election period. The opposition at the time accused him of violating the public procurement and budget law and warned that rescinding the contract would cost taxpayers millions. Scheuer had always denied the accusations.

Attention was also focused on the fact that Scheuer concluded the operator contracts at the end of 2018, even before there was definitive legal certainty in the ECJ. The U-Committee’s final report, submitted in 2021, stated that the risk of the car toll failing completely before the ECJ “should have been given greater weight in the risk assessment.” At the same time, it was determined that “no case of lying, deliberate concealment or manipulation” by the ministry or the minister could be reliably proven. (dpa)

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