Congestion tax trial delayed

Proposals to introduce a congestion tax designed to reduce traffic in Stockholm hit a bottleneck on Friday as Dalarna county court ordered the Swedish Roads Agency to repeat its tendering process to find a technology supplier.

The contract had already been awarded to IBM, but the court judged that too few companies had been considered. Repeating the process would set the trial back at least six months according to Dagens Nyheter, and on Monday the Swedish Roads Agency announced its intention to appeal.

“It’s good that the Roads Agency is appealing,” said Bosse Ringholm, whose finance department has been criticised by the Left Party and the Greens for not taking the project seriously.

“The accusations that we have delayed the trial are completely false,” he added. I’m not the county court. I’m not the appeal court. I can’t influence our agencies’ decisions – how the courts deal with the issue is not a political question.”

The aim of the charge is to reduce traffic by 10 to 15 percent and increase accessibility within the city centre. According to Expressen, inbound and outbound traffic will be registered in the different charge zones and the cost for moving between the zones will be higher in the rush hour. Although a wide range of vehicles will be exempt from the charge, it is expected to bring in 1.2 billion crowns per year – which will be reinvested in public transport.

But the fragile ‘red-green’ three-party coalition running Stockholm City Council is still bickering about the dates of the trial period, which is scheduled to run between the 12th of June 2005 and the 31st July 2006. The Social Democrats maintain that the gap between the trial’s end and election day in September 2006 is necessary – especially since Stockholmers will be given the chance to vote on the scheme.

But in the light of the new delay, the Left and Environmental parties are calling for the trial to be extended right up to election day itself.

“It’s no secret that it was the trial length that most concerned us back in the spring,” the Green Party’s Åsa Romson told DN. “We thought the timetable was too short to be any real use. Now the question is if it can be even shorter – it’s meaningless.”

Rob Naylor