Traffic “down 25 percent” on charging debut

Stockholm's congestion charge reduced the number of cars coming in and out of the city centre by 25 percent, on the first day of trials of the controversial project.

“The trial has started well,” said Gunnar Söderholm, head of the congestion charging office at Stockholm council.

Birger Höök, project leader at Vägverket (the Swedish National Road Administration), said that between 6.30 am and 6.30 pm on Tuesday, 246,000 vehicles passed the pay stations that ring the city.

In the same period on Monday, 328,000 vehicles passed the stations, meaning that traffic was down 25 percent.

How closely these figures will be repeated in the future is open to question. Many drivers are still on Christmas holidays and behaviour can change quickly.

Another result of the charges was that many drivers chose to use the Essingeleden bypass road, which on a full working day could create severe delays.

As the congestion charge is technically a tax, each time a car passes a pay station a formal tax decision is made. Birger Höök estimates that around 180,000 tax decisions were made on Tuesday. If each of these decisions resulted in a charge of 15 kronor, drivers will have paid a total on 2.7 million kronor on the first day of road charges.

The trial will continue until July, when Stockholmers will vote in a referendum to decide whether to keep the charge.

TT/The Local