Saturday 16 July 2011

New Finnish Transport Minister pours cold water on Helsinki congestion charge

After some years of positive work on congestion charging, the recent Finnish election (and formation of a six party coalition) seems to have changed the official Finnish government position on introducing congestion charging in Helsinki.

According to Finnish state broadcaster, YLE, new Transport Minister, Merja Kyllönen, has said that congestion charging is not a priority and need not be introduced, and if it was, public transport would have to be significantly improved.  It is notable that Ms. Kyllönen is from the Left Alliance party, a far-left grouping formed from the merger of two communist parties.

However, these statements have not impressed the liberal centre-right National Coalition Party which leads the government and has been supportive of congestion charging. 

Of course, it is notable that the Left Alliance is opposed to congestion charging, presumably because it will most affect those who are least willing to pay.   Additional public transport is also not always necessary, when charging improves the efficiency and capacity to turnaround bus services in particular.   However, it would be a shame if the good work done so far on congestion charging in Helsinki is thrown away, when it has substantial potential to improve mobility and the competitiveness of the city.   If introduced as a way of replacing some existing taxes, it could make a positive impact on the economy.

The most recent report on options for congestion charging in Helsinki is available here as a PDF document.

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