SF’s promise to lower commuting costs is but a distant memory

The party that campaigned on cheaper bus and train tickets is now in control of the Transport Ministry, but lowering the costs of public transport is not a priority

Two years ago, a smiling Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti) was almost impossible to miss. His face was plastered to the back of city buses throughout the Greater Copenhagen area with the election promise of cheaper public transport. 

Just months after the party was voted into power in September 2011 as part of the Socialdemokraterne-Socialistisk Folkeparti-Radikale (S-SF-R) coalition, however, those promises not only failed to materialise, but area commuters actually saw the prices on multi-ride cards and monthly passes rise by as much as five percent. At the outset of 2013, prices on public transport increased once again.

With last week's cabinet shake-up, SF now finds itself in charge of the Transport Ministry after Pia Olsen Dyhr made the switch from the trade minister to the new transport minister. But even with SF now sitting in the transport throne, Dyhr said that lowering commuting costs is no longer a top priority. 

"We have experienced an economic crisis that has made it not possible," Dyhr told Ritzau. "It is expensive to use public transport, but we also need to admit that it is expensive to sustain a good public transport system."

Although SF's election promises never came to pass, Dyhr stressed that the government has made some steps to bring down transport prices, such as dropping prices by 20 percent outside of rush hour and establishing a discount card for students. 

"We have laid some of the framework, but one must realise that it is extremely expensive every time we drop the prices [on transport] and that we need to try something else," Dyhr told Ritzau. "I think it it is more important to ensure that more people can get around in our society. I think we have a development in Danish traffic that has made it harder to get around. Everyone has been there, where they sit in traffic in the morning and waste a lot of time."

The new transport minister said that she would focus on reducing congestion rather than making public transport more affordable. She will have some concrete proposals to wade through shortly when the Trængselskommission, a commission set up to tackle Copenhagen's traffic problems after the proposed congestion charge (betalingsing) was dropped after massive resistance

In a preliminary report in December, the commission said that instituting a GPS-based system that charges drivers based on where, when and how far they drive was “the best system” to replace the discarded congestion charge. The commission is due to deliver its final proposals later this month.