Zealand mayors rebel over congestion zone

S and SF mayors are disappointed public transport prices won’t fall as promised

Mayors on the island of Zealand – all members of the ruling government parties – are reconsidering their support for the traffic congestion charge after the government revealed that prices on public transport would not be reduced as promised.

Prices on public transportation may actually be set to rise after it was revealed that operator DSB was facing financial hardship and that the government could not make up the shortfall if prices were reduced.

But as reduced public transportation prices were supposed to encourage people to turn to busses and trains instead of driving their car into Copenhagen – which would cost between 50 and 70 kroner a day after the introduction of the congestion zone before next summer – the mayors of regional councils on Zealand are concerned about the effects of higher transportation costs.

“Our message to the government is to slow down their plans and shelve the plan to introduce the congestion zone and instead use the time to find a solution to the congestion problem in Copenhagen,” Mette Toubourg (SF), Marie Stærke (S) and Joy Mogensen (S), leaders of Lejre, Køge and Roskilde councils, wrote in today’s Politiken newspaper.

“The crisis in public transport has now grown to such an extent that I no longer believe that a cheap, available and environmentally-sound alternative can be established in a few years,” Joy Mogensen told Politiken, adding that presenting new legislation on the congestion zone by March was too rushed.

Criticism from other mayors include overcrowded trains and a lack of parking spaces as well as the economic effect on regions bordering Copenhagen but placed outside of the congestion zone.

But the traffic minister, Henrik Dam Kristensen, argued that many of the concerns raised only serve to justify the need for greater investment in public transportation infrastructure.

“I want to point out that when I took over this ministry, there was only 200,000 kroner available for infrastructure investment,” Kristensen told Politiken. “And now the budget has set aside 800 million kroner to improve public transport before the congestion zone is created.”

Kristensen added that the economic reality meant that public transport prices would not be going down anytime soon and that increasing capacity on busses and trains could not be addressed while also simultaneously tackling congestion in Copenhagen.