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Petrol up - slow down

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Rising petrol prices, more cars and slower roads. The papers were jammed with car stories this week and there wasn't much good news for drivers - including the Prime Minister.

On Friday, the cost of gasoline rose by 12 öre to 10.32 crowns per litre, and as Svenska Dagbladet reminded readers, that's speeding towards the all-time high of 10.68 crowns reached back in May 2001.

While DN put the increase down to a combination of "low oil reserves in the USA, the war against terror in Iraq and the Middle East, record crude oil prices, oil market speculation and the weak dollar," Aftonbladet had a simpler explanation.

"Today we can reveal the figures which show that the petrol companies raise their prices when the weather gets warmer," declared the paper on Monday. Actually there wasn't much evidence of the figures themselves but a nicely coloured curve showed a bit of a bump in the summer months since 1994.

Tommy Nordin, Chairman of the Swedish Petroleum Institute, confirmed it.

"People drive their cars more in the holidays," he said.

In fact, despite the rising fuel prices, people are driving cars more in general. Monday's Svenska Dagbladet reported that there are now over 4 million cars on the Swedish roads, an increase of 30,000 on March last year, while the number of buses fell by 2% to 14,260.

But anybody driving into Stockholm will soon have to change down a gear - not only was the whole of Gamla Stan pedestrianised on Monday, but from August the entire inner city will be a 30km/h zone. Aftonbladet was quick to point out that "this won't be such a big change, since the average speed in the town centre is already only 32km/h."

Apparently at 30km/h nine out of ten people survive being hit by a car, whereas at 50km/h the risk of death is eight times higher.

Someone should tell the Prime Minister. Expressen, still smarting from missing out on the King in journey of madness' story a couple of weeks ago, overtook its rival with an uncannily similar headline on Saturday.

"Göran Persson and Anitra Steen in speeding madness" announced the paper, clearly shocked by such reckless behaviour by the Prime Minister and his wife on "one of the busiest traffic weekends of the year."

"He moved from lane to lane and was driving at over 140km/h when he overtook me," said a remarkably observant witness. "He seemed very relaxed. He had one hand on the wheel, a can of drink in the other, and was facing Anitra Steen and chatting with her."

Unlike the king, Persson defended himself when challenged by the paper - prompted, no doubt, by the fact that the 'witness' was one of Expressen's own reporters.

"Usually I stick to the speed limit," he said. "But sometimes even I need to overtake or deal with a traffic situation by stepping on the gas for a short stretch."

That wasn't good enough for Expressen though, which was certain of its facts because the reporter admitted that he himself was driving at 125km/h - 15km/h over the limit.

"Had the Prime Minister been caught by the traffic police, he would have lost his licence," the paper pointed out. As would the reporter, they might have added.

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