Transport minister dismisses road pricing

A report on how to reduce Copenhagen’s congestion says drivers should pay per kilometre driven, but the government wants to focus on public transport investments

Charging drivers for every kilometre they drive has been dismissed by the government as a solution for reducing congestion in Copenhagen.

The practice, known as road pricing, was otherwise a central proposal in the report released today by the commission set up by the government in 2012 to find ways to address Copenhagen’s traffic issues after it was forced to abandon a congestion charging zone.

READ MORE: Light rails, trains and fewer automobiles

But while the Trængselskommission wrote that “road pricing would be the most effective tool to reduce congestion”, the transport minister, Pia Olsen Dyhr (Socialistisk Folkeparti), said she would prefer to focus on improving public transport and bicycle infrastructure.

“Building new motorways is not high on the government’s list of priorities and we also think it’s too early to start work on road pricing,” Dyhr said. “[Copenhagen’s congestion] will only get worse in future unless we consider ways of providing an efficient, attractive, sustainable public transport system in the capital.”

READ MORE: Panel wants car owners to pay to drive

The commission was established to examine Copenhagen’s traffic problems and come up with suggestions for a complete strategy for reducing congestion, pollution and modernising traffic infrastructure.

In the report, the commission presents a wide range of proposals that include improving rail and cycle infrastructure, introducing new bus routes and simplifying public transport fares.

Far-left backs trial
Despite the government’s hesitation, far-left government support party Enhedslisten supports the road pricing proposal.

“We want to help find the 100 million kroner needed for a large-scale test of road pricing, but we also need to introduce initiatives that help in the short term,” Henning Hyllested, Enhedslisten traffic spokesperson, told Berlingske.

The total cost for all the initiatives sits somewhere between 32 and 42 billion kroner, with an annual investment of between three and four billion kroner.

MPs: Find low-hanging fruit
Following the report’s release, a number of MPs referred to the need to identify the initiatives that deliver the greatest impact for the least cost.

“I think we should harvest the low-hanging fruit, the places where we can make a significant impact without investing too much money,” Kristian Pihl Lorentzen, Venstre traffic spokesperson, told Politiken newspaper.

Rasmus Prehn, traffic spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne, said the government was already following many of the suggestions, such as increased investment in public transport.

READ MORE: Congestion worsening in Copenhagen

He also found that among the commission’s proposals were a number that could easily be introduced at a low cost.

“One of the clear recommendations is introducing a co-ordinated traffic light system,” he told Politiken. “The congestion commission thinks we could increase road capacity by up to 15 percent. That’s something the government is ready to move ahead with immediately.”

Mayor wants results
Regardless of which initiatives the government chooses to move ahead with, Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) wants to see some action soon.

“Let’s get down to business instead of discussing theoretical solutions for far ahead in the future,” Jensen told Berlingske.

He added that the city needed more express busses, bicycle superhighways and intelligent traffic regulation, but shared Dyhr’s scepticism about road pricing.

“There are a lot of unknowns with regard to costs, technology and the legality given that road pricing has not yet been introduced in a large scale in other countries or cities. That’s why it would be wise to start a nation-wide test.”

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