Thursday, 31 March 2011

Gothenburg congestion tax

I have added a link to the small congestion tax page for the city of Gothenburg in Sweden.   Gothenburg plans to introduce congestion pricing as of 1 January 2013 closely following the approach taken by Stockholm, to the point that the concept and technology are nearly identical.   The only interesting variations are the inclusion of an internal cordon at Gota Alvbron, and an extension of the cordon west to cover a river crossing at Alvsborgbron.

It is planned to operate 0600-1829 weekdays, excluding July (which is deemed to be a holiday month).  Political approval for the tax was reported in January 2010.

Proposed Gothenburg cordon

The purpose is stated as being:

1. Reduce the impact of car traffic on the environment. Road traffic accounts for a large part of the climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions, these emissions need to fall for us to meet our climate objectives. The tax is a financial incentive to reduce vehicle traffic and divert to public transport.

2. In a dense urban core, more road space is needed to increase usage of other modes (public transport, cycling and walking).

3. Enable the Gothenburg region to pay for major investments in public transport, rail and road. This is to implement costly but important infrastructure investments earlier than it would otherwise have been able to "regular" tax funding.

Already the Ministry of Finance is proposing inflation-proofing of the tax with another increase in 2015.

The tax is part of a large package of measures that includes new public transport infrastructure, a new road tunnel, and various road safety measures. (Full details in Swedish here, use Google Translate)

The intention is that charges be cheaper during the inter-peak period, and the technology used will be ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) as is used in Stockholm.  The tax will comprise a single cordon, which includes a river crossing boundary outside the cordon.  A map is available here (click the box Visa trängselskatteområde to get the cordon). 

Once again, congestion pricing should be proven to have a positive effect on congestion and be helping to finance improvements to both rail and road infrastructure, both are important as motorists need to get value not only from reduced travel times, but also some capital investment if other charges are not to be reduced.  It will be interesting to see whether this catalyses similar steps in more European cities.   In my view the move is rather adventurous at a time of significant economic downturn, but for practitioners of tolling and advocates of economically efficient road pricing it will add another real time case study to the mix, and I expect another argument to support the point that road pricing can work to reduce congestion.


  1. i wonder really if sweden could call their congestion fee tax and try to claim money from foreigners . due to legalslation it´s unlegal to claim fee on roads in sweden and they dont want change cos their so many private roads .. this i big problem for the transportsektion which now allows foreign lorrys to pass congestion zones whith foreign drivers and plates . these lorrys drive domestic traffic and dumps wages..

  2. Yes, you're right about the private roads, which makes a big difference. Of course Sweden had been working on a lorry toll system akin to Germany's for some years, but that programme has been stalled. I suspect once Denmark moves from the Eurovignette, the pressure will be on Sweden to do this.

  3. Hey,
    Good post, I have a question, do you know who imposted the congestion tax in the first place, and whether there was a public vote on it or not?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Thea.

      There was no public vote before introduction. The city council voted to introduce it, but it needed central government legislative approval. However, there will be a referendum in September about whether to continue with it.