Editorial | Let botched congestion charge pave way for car ownership rethink

February 23rd, 2012 8:42 am| by admin

We’ll admit it. We’re disappointed that the government has chosen to scuttle its plans to charge a toll on cars entering and leaving the city. The idea wasn’t perfect, but the experience from Stockholm and London showed that a congestion charge is an effective way to reduce traffic.


More than that, however, the congestion charge was also a symbol that this government prioritised progressive solutions to modern problems. Instead of embarking on an endless cycle of measures to accommodate increasingly more cars, the government wants to cut the number of cars on the road by making it more attractive to take the train or bus. In the end, though, the plan fell short because it punished those who wanted – or needed – to drive anyway.


The government still plans to improve public transport, and it will do so without the offending toll, but any plan to encourage more people to take the bus and train needs to look at the way car ownership is taxed.


Under the current registration system, new cars are slapped with a fee amounting to 180 percent of their purchase price over 79,000 kroner. For a new car costing 250,000 kroner, only 110,000 kroner of that actually goes towards its purchase. The rest – 140,000 kroner – is a fee paid to the state.


But the problem with a fee charged at purchase is two-fold: first, it means people refrain from buying newer, more efficient and safer cars, and second, it means that the fee is tied to simple ownership, not use. That 140,000 kroner fee needs to be paid whether you drive every day or if the car never leaves your driveway.


Given the amount of money generated by car registration – 25 billion kroner in 2010 – changing the fee would require some delicate maths, but retooling it so it is assessed on a per kilometre basis would give people a disincentive to drive when a better option exists, without adding an additional burden when driving is the best option.


Another likely benefit would be an immediate surge in the sale of new cars and, in the long run, a lower average age of cars on the road. These increased sales would help offset any decline in revenue from lower registration fees.


Round off the list of initiatives by slapping a hefty surcharge on the most polluting vehicles, and Denmark could find itself garnering as much attention for coming up with a pragmatic approach to car ownership as London and Stockholm got for their congestion charges.

Bohr, photographed in 1948 at Princeton University aged 63, saw out the latter years of his career in the US, promoting the peaceful application of atomic energy (photo: Princeton University/American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library)
Atomic scientist’s quantum leap changed the world of physics forever
For such a tiny country, Denmark certainly punches above its weight, and th...
A tragedy in Copenhagen this afternoon (photo:PDP)
Mother of four stabbed to death in Copenhagen
A 51-year-old woman has been stabbed to death in an apartment in Nørrebro ...
German conductor Hartmut Haenchen warned against cuts from the Royal Orchestra (photo:  Riccardo Musacchio)
Musicians and maestros condemn cuts at the Royal Danish Theatre
The musicians at Det Kongelige Kapel, which is internationally known and ac...
Not rolling tomorrow (photo: Hochgeladen von Heb)
The postman may not ring at all in Copenhagen tomorrow
Some Copenhagen residents will see neither post nor packages tomorrow as ab...
Grejfreak has moved on from its original idea of selling military gear (photo: Bonzo)
Aarhus veteran cashing in on military gear
Kristian Juel Rasmussen came back from his deployment with the Danish milit...
Basking sharks are rare in Danish waters these days (photo: Anders Peter Schultz, Statens Naturhistoriske Museum)
Massive shark caught off Danish coast
A huge four-metre long shark was caught in Kattegat Strait off the coast o...