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Legal traffic jam halts Stockholm?s congestion fees

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11:23 CET+01:00
Stockholm trafficThe Swedish Road Administration has hit the brakes on its project to build the technical system that would support such a fee in central Stockholm. The snag is a legal fight between system suppliers who each feel entitled to the contract with the Swedish Road Administration.

The Swedish Road Administration awarded the contract to IBM in July, but competitor Combitech sued in the district court, claiming the negotiations unfairly favoured IBM. The suit was dismissed by the Administrative Court of Appeal but now, the Supreme Administrative Court is siding with Combitech and says the case must be heard by county court.

"There's no alternative but to stop work," says Ingemar Skogö, the general director of the Swedish Road Administration.

"Other lawyers have advised us of the same action. We've contacted the Finance Department as well as the City of Stockholm."

Skogö said he has no idea when work could possibly begin again, but he's sure that the deadline of August 15th is now beyond anyone involved in the project. Politicians are not giving up entirely, however.

"For 20-30 years we've tried to solve the traffic problem in Stockholm," said Annika Billström, head of the finance division in Stockholm City Council, and one of the most ardent supporters of the congestion fee.

"Building more roads, expanding public transportation, and trying the congestion fee could all be part of the solution," she said.

A major advertising campaign about the congestion fee started this week. That must now be recalled, much to the frustration of Gunnar Söderholm, head of the Environmental Fee office for Stockholm.

"We've spent so much on preparations, studies, and so on," said Söderholm. "Shouldn't we get some use out of all that money?"

In a press release, Söderholm says the decision is "deeply disappointing", but that the repercussions for the entire congestion fee endeavour have yet to be seen.

Indeed, Stockholm Council has already spent 332 million crowns on various parts of the project. Some calculations put that number up to 3.3 billion crowns and speculation now abounds whether the congestion fee will ever become a reality.

Conservative party leaders, who oppose the fee, say the court decision is the death knell of the plan. Sten Nordin of the Moderate party told Dagnes Nyheter: "It was wise of the Swedish Road Administration to stop work. Now, Annika Billström should stop the propaganda campaign that started last Monday."

According to DN, "only a miracle can save the project".

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, SR, Aftonbladet, Computer Sweden

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