Stockholm says au revoir to congestion charge

The controversial trial of congestion charging in Stockholm ended at 6:30pm Monday, with the future of the tax still uncertain.

The trial, which started in January, which cost 3.8 billion kronor to set up, claims to have reduced traffic in and out of the city by 22 percent, and garnered 400 million in revenues, much less than expected.

“From a technical perspective, I certainly think you can call it a success,” says Gunnar Söderholm, head of the Stockholm Trials office, which is responsible for evaluating the charge.

While polls show that Stockholmers, originally overwhelmingly sceptical to the charge, have started to soften their views, with 52 percent now in favour, the view in the car-owning suburbs has been less positive.

The future of the charge is expected to be decided by a referendum, to be held on September 17th, the same day as national and local elections. Only people living in the parts of central Stockholm controlled by Stockholm council will get to vote in the referendum.

This has been criticized by suburban councils, who say their citizens are also affected by the charge.

The outcome of the vote is not binding, however, and political experts say that a victory for the Alliance in the general election could mean the end of the charge, even if Stockholmers vote for.

The congestion charge signs on Stockholm’s roads are due to be taken down on Monday night, although the technical equipment will remain for the time being, in case Stockholmers vote in favour of the charge.

Meanwhile, Stockholmers are being asked to hand in their transponders, the electronic devices that have enabled them to pay the charge automatically, to their nearest Pressbyrån or 7-Eleven store.