Congestion charge: “real test” begins

After a gentle introduction during last week's holiday period, Stockholm's congestion charge began its first day at full throttle on Monday morning.

“It’s quieter than a normal work day – for example, there’s clearly less traffic on Essingeleden,” said Birgitta Holmström, the head of information at the Swedish Roads Agency’s Stockholm office, referring to the traffic-plagued stretch of motorway curving around the west of the city.

But Holmström was cagey about whether the reduction in vehicles could immediately be attributed to the congestion charge.

“We can only speculate about that, but perhaps there are more people using public transport today, or sharing cars. We thought there would be more traffic on Essingeleden,” she said.

Throughout the morning Holmström was one of the observers at the central information unit shared by Stockholm city council, the Roads Agency and Storstockholms Lokaltrafik, the Stockholm transport network. She was joined there by the Green Party’s spokesman Peter Eriksson and Stockholm representative Åsa Romson.

“If this works this week then it suggests that it will be a very successful trial where we can clearly show the effects of people actually using public transport,” said Peter Eriksson.

“I truly believe in this.”