January 3, 2006

Stockholm’s congestion charge reduces traffic

By Niklas Pollard

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Stockholm's first day of a congestion
charging experiment proved a success in reducing traffic on
Tuesday when the number of vehicles entering the city center
dropped by about a sixth.

The test run in the Swedish capital, involving a maximum
charge of 60 crowns ($7.50) a day, will last until July and
Stockholm residents will vote in September on whether to make
the world's most extensive congestion charging system

"Traffic in inner-city Stockholm fell by 16 percent during
the morning hours compared to yesterday," the city's mayor,
Annika Billstrom, told reporters.

Official data from the morning period showed 69,600
vehicles entered the congestion charging zone, down from 83,000
on Monday.

The charge, targeted at cutting traffic on the most heavily
congested roads by 10-15 percent, is part of a political deal
for Prime Minister Goran Persson's Social Democrat minority
government to win the support of the Green Party in parliament.

But while most Swedes take pride in their country's
environmental credentials, many have been angered by the

An opinion poll showed nearly 60 percent of Stockholm's
residents opposed the charge, while 30 percent were in favor.

"I think it is insane that we who have to drive in and out
for work have to pay," said truck driver Clas Ahlefjord.

"I hate those charges ... It would be better to use the
money help people fix their teeth," said resident Ingrid Ohman.

But Claes Roxbergh, a Green Party member of parliament,
said: "The alternative is to sit in traffic jams for the next
10 years."

In London, the only other European capital with a
congestion charge, traffic volume has been reduced by 18

Opposition was widespread in the British capital when
congestion charging was introduced in 2001, but many Londoners
have since warmed to the system under which motorists have to
pay eight pounds ($14) a day.

"There was lots of apocalyptic talk before it was
introduced," said Richard Dodd, spokesman for the Transport for
London congestion charging body.

"People said things like public transport will not cope,
London will become a ghost town, businesses will be driven out
and nobody will come to central London to shop any more. None
of that has turned out to be true," said Dodd.