A series of determined protests wins a referendum on Gothenburg’s new congestion zone.
In the news round up: new laws to ban mobile phones while driving, plus the investigation into Sweden’s worst ever accident blames drivers error.
Perhaps January 1st wasn’t the best date to introduce Gothenburg’s new congestion charge zone.
The average high temperature in Sweden’s second city in January is 1° C. The record low is -26° C.
Not the best time to be nudging the natives from behind their heated steering wheels to stamp their feet and clap their hands at the bus stop, or slither down ice packed city streets, briefcases in hand.
Far better, surely, to introduce the zone in the summer when 30° C is not unusual, and the nearby archipelago becomes an idyllic holiday playground.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that this year, when winter goes on and on, that opposition to the scheme continues to mount.
Last month well over 1,000 people gathered in the city’s main square to protest them being denied the referendum Stockholm was granted on its congestion zone.
Then came a spate of paintball attacks on the number plate recognition cameras used to police the system. The latest incident involved over a quarter of the city’s forty stations, with seven out of action for over 24 hours.
Now a petition of 90,000 signatures has, under Swedish law, compelled the city council to grant the referendum though no date, or question, has yet been set.
Traffic fell by 20% in the month following the zone’s introduction though the drop in February compared to the year before was 17%. March’s figures are awaited with interest. Just 30% of the motorists given free public transport passes for January have continued to use the trams and buses.
The zone only applies on weekdays during office hours with a maximum charge of £6 per day. It doesn’t apply during July. We reported last month that previously exempt foreign registered cars would be included in the scheme from next year.
The Stockholm Vote
The referendum on the Stockholm scheme in October 2006 became an issue in the national election held the same day.
Narrowly accepted by the citizens of the city itself (53:47) the zone was rejected by all surrounding municipalities that held a vote.
The winning opposition party had pledged to include votes from all voting areas but decided to implement the zone anyway after redirecting the revenues – which had been intended to improve public transport – to road maintenance instead.
The Swedish government has finally decided to ban driving while using a hand held phone. Sweden is the only EU country where driving and texting or talking is currently allowed. Any improvements in the country’s safety record would be bad news for Britain. We currently vie for the title of safest roads in Europe, if not the world. We beat them on deaths, they shade us on serious injuries.
The investigation into Sweden’s worst ever road traffic accident in January pins the blame collectively. The crash on the E4 near Helsingborg in mid-January involved 38 trucks and 33 cars. One man died. Police say eight drivers, seven truckers – and five of them Swedish – failed to leave enough space between vehicles in the icy conditions. Early theories that blamed relaxed new winter tyre laws have been dismissed.