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Gothenburg forced to hold traffic fee vote

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Gothenburg forced to hold traffic fee vote
07:48 CET+01:00
Almost 50,000 Gothenburg residents have signed a protest list demanding a referendum on the city's much-contested new congestion charge, despite a 20-percent cut in traffic.

Displeasure at the new taxation scheme (trängselskatt) has been simmering since the fee's introduction on January 1st, 2013.

In February, around a thousand people gathered on Götaplatsen in central Gothenburg to demand a say on the charge, which has been credited with cutting traffic by 23 percent.

"Now in 2013, there is finally a chance for us Gothenburg residents to vote on the congestion charge," said Gun Fernqvist from the Swedish Automobile Association (Motormännens Riksförbund) at the protest last month.

The system was introduced on New Year's Day with motorists paying between 8 and 18 kronor ($2.80) depending on the time of day, with a maximum daily charge per vehicle set at 60 kronor.

According to figures published two weeks after the system had been in place, one in five drivers in the city had elected to leave their cars at home during peak hours.

Furthermore off-peak traffic had declined by 6 percent according to the figures from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).

When a similar system was introduced in Stockholm in 2006, residents were given the chance to vote and the organizers of the February demonstration argued that Gothenburg should be given the same chance.

Despite the reduction in traffic, the congestion charge has remained controversial with reports of some motorists seeking to avoid the charge by diverting to smaller roads.

The call for a referendum has been organized by local evening newspaper GT, with media observers nothing that it has been the driving force behind the campaign.

At least 10 percent of the local electorate has to ask for a referendum for it to become a reality. In a city of about 400,000, the 49,000 signatures are well above the required minimum, noted the TT news agency.

TT/The Local/at

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