Neither Ja nor Nej to congestion charge

While those in Stockholm gave a clear thumbs up for the continuation of the city’s congestion tax, neighboring municipalities in the county gave the charge a hostile reception.

After 457 of 461 districts in the City of Stockholm had been counted on Monday morning, the Yes-side had 51.7 percent of voters, while those against the tax had 45.6 of votes. A small percentage entered blank votes.

The results mean that Moderate Party’s Kristina Axén Olin, who was until yesterday opposition leader on the council, but who won the county election, now has to try an install the congestion tax for good, reported TT on Monday.

“I have promised Stockholmers to request to the new government that the result be paid attention to,” she said, according to TT.

Axén Olin also said the Alliance government has promised to listen to the votes of the surrounding 14 municipalities, which are not in favor of the tax.

As of 5 a.m. on Monday, 11 of the 14 municipalities had been counted. None of the other municipalities voted in favor of the tax.

While the result of the referendum in Stockholm city is not binding, both the former ruling Social Democrats and their parliamentary allies and the centre-right opposition alliance have agreed to respect the result

If approved, the congestion tax would be introduced in March or April 2007, following similar systems in London, Rome and Singapore.

A test period from January 3 until July 31 far exceeded the government’s expectations of a 10 to 15 percent reduction of cars entering and leaving the capital, registering instead an average fall of between 20 and 25 percent.

During the trial, all vehicles except taxis, buses, electric cars, hybrid vehicles and foreign-registered cars that entered or exited central Stockholm on weekdays during the peak hours of 6:30 am to 6:29 pm were required to pay the levy.

Motorists paid between 10 and 20 kronor, depending on the time of day they passed a toll station, with an upper limit of 60 kronor a day.

Since the toll stations were turned off at the close of the trial on July 31, car traffic in and out of the capital shot back up to exceed the pre-trial level of around half a million cars a day, according to official estimates.

Cameras filmed motorists passing the toll stations and a small transponder mounted on the car’s windshield enabled the charge to be automatically debited from the motorist’s bank account.

TT/AFP/Adam Ewing