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Gothenburg residents demand say on road tolls

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10:26 CET+01:00
Gothenburg residents were out on force on Saturday to demonstrate in favour of a referendum on the controversial road congestion charge which was introduced on January 1st.

Around a thousand people gathered on Götaplatsen in central Gothenburg to demand a say on the charge which has been credited with cutting traffic by 23 percent.

"Now in 2013, there is finally a chance for us Gothenburg residents to vote on the congestion charge," said Gun Fernqvist from the Swedish Automobile Association (Motormännens Riksförbund).

The system was introduced on New Year's Day with motorists paying between 8 and 18 kronor ($2.80) depending on the time of day, with a maximum daily charge per vehicle set at 60 kronor.

According to figures published two weeks after the system had been in place, one in five drivers in the city had elected to leave their cars at home during peak hours.

Furthermore off-peak traffic had declined by 6 percent according to the figures from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).

But despite the reduction in traffic, the congestion charge has remained controversial with reports of some motorists seeking to avoid the charge by diverting to smaller roads.

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When a similar system was introduced in Stockholm in 2006, residents were given the chance to vote and the organizers of Saturday's demonstration argued that Gothenburg should be given the same chance.

"The people's initiative has to be taken seriously. Now democracy has been put to the test," Maria Berjaoui, the founder of a Facebook group on the issue, said.

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