Public transport fares going up, despite pledge
Politicians point fingers over January 1 price hike, while commuters are left holding the bill
You may want to sit down for this one. Riding the train and bus in greater Copenhagen is about to get more expensive Â not cheaper, as promised.
The Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF) and Socialdemokraterne (S) campaigned last summer on the promise of slashing ticket prices for public transport by 40 percent. But now that they have won the election and sit in government along with the Radikale (R), ticket prices are actually going to rise Â and maybe more than once.
On Monday the state-owned train operator DSB announced that on January 1 the cost of a three-zone, ten-ride klippekort will rise from 180 to 190 kroner, while a two-zone monthly pass will go from 320 to 335 kroner.
These and other fare hikes Â some as much as five percent Â outstrip average wage increases this year. And the government is not ruling out that prices could rise again in 2013.
The news infuriated a wide gamut of politicians, voters and interest groups Â not least those who voted for S and SF, trusting in their campaign promise that an S-SF government would mean lower-priced public transport.
The variable they didnÂt count on was R, their powerful coalition partner; and indeed the S-R-SF government is turning out to be a beast of a different colour than an S-SF government might have been.
The governmentÂs far left-wing support party, Enhedslisten (EL), didnÂt pull any punches in blaming R for S and SFÂs broken promises.
ÂThe Radikale laid a lot of weight on preventing more tax increases. Because of that, theyÂre also to blame that there isnÂt going to be money to secure, for example, lower prices for public transportation,Â said EL group chairman Per Clausen.
But Andreas Steenberg, the traffic spokesperson for R, countered that the three governing parties jointly agreed to allow ticket prices to rise.
ÂNo, a unified government stands behind the decision. We canÂt just tax ourselves out of all the worldÂs problems. I realise that runs counter to EnhedslistenÂs view of the world, which is that you just raise taxes and solve everything. But you canÂt do that,Â Steenberg told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Anne Baastrup, SFÂs traffic spokesperson, conceded that the price hikes belied her partyÂs campaign promises. She added that Âthe political willÂ was still there to lower ticket prices, but that it just wasnÂt possible now.
ÂWe donÂt have the money. ThatÂs the reality,Â she told Jyllands-Posten.
She added that binding agreements made between DSB and the previous Venstre-Konservative (VK) government, along with a deficit of over 100 billion kroner left by VK, were the main reasons why S and SF had to renege on their promise and political goal of lowering public transport costs.
ÂIÂm amazed that [VK] could let this happen without anyone noticing Â not even you journalists,Â Baastrup added.
Venstre traffic spokesperson Kristian Pihl Lorentzen countered that S and SF had simply promised voters more than was possible.
During the campaign, S and SF proposed financing reduced public transport fares with additional taxes on private transport Â namely, with a new toll-ring to tax vehicles coming and going from Copenhagen.
But Lorentzen said implementing the toll-ring would cost loads of money before it ever began paying back.
ÂThere would be net losses for the first several years. Yet, at the same time, the government is proposing to use the money from the toll-ring to pay for improvements that would increase capacity [on trains and buses],Â Lorentzen told Jyllands-Posten. ÂThey would spend the money several times over. It just doesnÂt add up.Â
Joy Mogensen (S), the mayor of Roskilde, is another politician who agreed that the governmentÂs public transport policy doesnÂt add up Â particularly not for commuters.
ÂIn Roskilde we have a public transport system that just doesnÂt run,Â Mogensen told Jyllands-Posten. ÂWhen the trains finally leave, there arenÂt enough seats. Then they donÂt always stop where theyÂre supposed to. TheyÂre a mess. ThatÂs why itÂs especially wrong to raise the prices.Â