Government backs down on congestion charge

No toll ring around Copenhagen

No congestion charge - more pollution?
No congestion charge - more pollution?

The government has ditched plans to impose a congestion fee on all cars entering Copenhagen, one of the Social Democrats' key campaign issues.

After months of dispute about funding, costs, how revenue would be distributed, resistance from local authorities, and dissension from the Socialist People's Party (SPP), Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has backed down from the controversial toll ring project. The government will now set up an expert commission to find new ways of easing traffic congestion in the capital and raising the DKK500m - 1bn earmarked to fund the SPP’s demands to improve public transport and cut bus and train tickets by 40 per cent.

The Liberals, who opposed the toll ring proposal, welcomed the government's decision to drop the proposed congestion charge 'on behalf of all the motorists in and around Copenhagen who would have had to find an extra DKK20,000 a year’. Traffic spokesman Martin Geertsen said: "We're pleased about the outcome and happy on behalf of all residents of the capital. Their resistance to the project has apparently had a major influence."

The Social Liberals also welcomed the demise of the toll ring but acknowledged that traffic congestion in Copenhagen is still a major problem. "You can't keep promoting a project when the financing isn't viable," said traffic spokesman Andreas Stenberg. "This toll ring would have cost too much in administration and registration duties but we still need to address the congestion problem."

The far-left Red/Green Alliance, the government’s guarantor of a parliamentary majority, called the climbdown a ‘major setback’ for collective traffic and pollution in Copenhagen. “Some people within the government were against the project from the start and tried to sabotage it by leaking misinformation about financing to the media,” said spokesman Per Clausen. “The government has handled the whole thing very poorly.”

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