Road tolls finally get green light

After months of uncertainty, a court has confirmed that Stockholm’s congestion charging scheme can go ahead.

The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed an appeal by Combitech, which had unsuccessfully applied for the contract to provide technology for the project. The legal wrangle had held up the introduction of the charge by several months, and it had looked as though the scheme might have had to be postponed indefinitely.

The latest ruling seems to have breathed new life into the project, and the planned trial period, which was originally due to start in August 2005, could now start in late 2005 or early 2006.

The Swedish National Road Administration (SNRA) says that it will now consult with the government and IBM, which beat Combitech to win the technology contract, to work outa new start date. The legislation passed by the Swedish parliament to introduce the charge requires that any trial finishes no later than 31st July 2006. This would mean a trial of about seven months, to be followed by a referendum of Stockholm residents.

“The government must decide whether it is sensible to do a trial of this length,” said Birger Höök of SNRA to Dagens Nyheter, although he nevertheless professed himself to be happy with the court’s decision.

Opposition parties were less than keen on the idea, and begged the government to rethink.

“Tax money that is now being thrown away on a short trial should instead be spent on building roads and improving public transport,” said Lotta Edholm, deputy leader of the Liberal group on Stockholm council.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet