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Mixed news ahead for deliveries

CUSTOMERS using express delivery services can look forward to speedier delivery after Slovakia joins the Schengen zone. But the perk will likely be followed by higher prices once Slovakia introduces its electronic highway toll system the next year.

CUSTOMERS using express delivery services can look forward to speedier delivery after Slovakia joins the Schengen zone. But the perk will likely be followed by higher prices once Slovakia introduces its electronic highway toll system the next year.

Slovakia is set to enter the Schengen border-free area on December 21.

"Slovakia's accession into Schengen and the introduction of the electronic toll system will have an impact on road deliveries," said Mária Džundová, the country sales and marketing manager for TNT Express. "Express delivery firms, as well as their customers, will feel the impact."

Schengen will shorten delivery times for cross-border shipments, said Laurenc Svitok, country manager of DHL Express Slovakia. And the introduction of electronic tolls will probably cause an increase in operation costs for delivery companies.

"For sure the toll will be reflected in the prices," said Svitok. "As the toll system and rates have still not been decided, the exact impact on the prices is still unclear."

The Schengen Agreement, from 1985, allows for the abolition of border controls between the participating European countries. Most EU states and some non-EU members have signed the agreement, and not all of the countries that have signed it have also implemented it.

After customs checks at border crossings with Schengen members are removed, TNT Express expects quicker morning deliveries and longer hours for picking up afternoon deliveries.

"Waiting times at border crossings will drop, but only time will tell how many minutes we will save," Svitok told The Slovak Spectator.

Electronic toll collection should start operating in Slovakia on January 1, 2009 for motor vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. These vehicles will have to have registered on-board collection units installed. Tolls will be charged on a 2,400-kilometre network of roads and highways.

Aside from the increased prices, electronic toll collection in Slovakia could also have benefits, according to Džundová. The cabinet intends to use the money that is collected to maintain roads and highways.

"However, the actual positive impact of the electronic toll, in the form of higher quality and a higher number of highways, will mainly depend on the state institutions and the cabinet, which have the power to decide on the incomes of the National Highway Company," she said.

In late September, the National Highway Company (NDS) announced for the third time a tender for providing the comprehensive electronic toll collection service in Slovakia. Eight bidders have delivered applications for participation in the tender so far.

The NDS is to invite eight shortlisted candidates to submit their bids on November 23. Envelopes with bids will be opened on January 18.


By Marta Ďurianová

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