“Secret” plan to move congestion zone angers local politicians

Suburban mayors voice anger over decision to extend limit of planned congestion zone to Copenhagen’s city limits

The government has collided with local and national politicians over where the limit of the proposed congestion charging zone should be.

The initial plan suggested that the limit should run along Ring Road 2 within CopenhagenÂ’s city limits, but after pressure from within City Council and from government support party Enhedslisten, the zone may be moved to the cityÂ’s borders.

“We have told the transport minister that if we are going to properly participate in negotiations, then we are firmly for placing the limit on the municipal border,” Henning Hyllested, transport spokesperson for Enhedslisten, told Politiken newspaper. “We try not to issue ultimatums before negations start, but he really needs to present some good arguments for us to budge. And I don’t think he has any.”

The congestion charging zone has become a headache for Socialdemokraterne, which has faced criticism for retracting their promise of reduced public transport fees in the new year to encourage a switchover after the congestion charging zone is implemented in the summer.

And after the party saw a dramatic drop in popularity following its election win in September, the zone might just damage its voter base even more. Surrounding suburban municipalities, traditionally strongholds for Socialdemokraterne, may suffer increased pollution and traffic from cars skirting the zone if it ends at the city limits rather than along Ring Road 2.

Several Socialdemokrat mayors of surrounding municipalities have expressed their dissatisfaction at the discussion to move the congestion zone limits, after agreeing to support the plan before the election when the proposed limit was within Copenhagen municipality.

Thomas Gyldal Petersen, mayor of Herlev, launched a scathing attack on the transport minister, Henrik Dam Kristensen, in todayÂ’s Politiken, stating that at a meeting with him this week, it was revealed that the Transport Ministry had already made plans to move the limits without consulting the surrounding municipalities.

“At the meeting it was revealed that it had already been decided long ago that the border would run along the Copenhagen city limit,” Petersen said. “They are pushing Copenhagen’s problem onto blameless people. My advice has always been that when you have to deliver the goods to keep the government together, it’s best to go back to what you said in the election campaign.”

Despite PetersenÂ’s assertion that the limit had been secretly changed, the government responded by saying that the placement of the congestion zone had not yet been finalised.

“There are currently some negotiations, but it has not been formally announced that it will be placed at the city limits,” Rasmus Prehn, traffic spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There’s a conflict of interests between the City Council in Copenhagen and the suburban councils.”

The former mayor of Herlev, Kjeld Hansen, chose some stronger language, however, stating in today’s Berlingske that the government was “declaring a war between Copenhagen and the surrounding suburbs” by moving the limit of the zone.

Responding to the mounting criticism, Socialdemokrat political spokesperson Magnus Heunicke argued that voters would quickly see the benefits of the zone, regardless of where it was placed.

“It will raise an enormous amount of money which will be used to improve the transport infrastructure,” Heunicke told Berlingske. “And Socialdemokraternes voters in the surrounding suburbs will see significant benefits as it will help solve some of the congestion issues on the streets as well as improve public transport.”

Other issues facing the congestion zone regard the island of Amager and whether it will be included in its entirety in the congestion zone – only the northern half of the island is part of the city of Copenhagen.

CopenhagenÂ’s primary airport is also located on Amager, and it has also been proposed that an airport corridor be established that would allow drivers to access the airport via the motorway without having to pay to enter or leave the city.