Protests against exuberant road toll across Norway
The dissatisfaction with existing and planned toll roads is massive in many parts of Norway. Families protest against several thousand in added fees and expenses annually – and ask how it is possible to have a decent infrastructure and public transportation in other countries without direct taxation on travel.
Last Wednesday night, people in Stavanger and Sandnes protested in their thousands and obstructed traffic for several hours in both places.
The emerging Political party, “People’s Action against more Tolls”, will partake in elections in the larger Norwegian cities next year, and aim to become a unifying party for anyone who is opposed to toll roads.
– Initially, toll roads was a local effort when the will was great to solve a specific local road problem as quickly as possible. This extra effort has become the foundation and mainstay in the financing of road construction. We wish to put an end to that – and replace with an increased tax rate, says party leader Frode Myrhol (46).
Lists in many cities
The insurance consultant from Sunnmøre has been on the Stavanger City Council since 2015 and has now applied to register the movement as a national political party. This requires at least five thousand signatures.
– We aim to stand for election in Oslo, Bergen, Tønsberg, Kristiansand, Trondheim, Drammen and Tromsø, as well as in Stavanger, says Myrhol to VG.
– The strategy for the national party will be to be at the centre of politics, by, for example, be moderate in immigration and integration issues, in order not to be an alternative for Progress Party voters only, he says.
In October, 38 toll plazas will be operational in the district after a unison Norwegian Parliament approved the City Package for Northern parts of the Jæren region. In the course of 15 years, NOK 25 billion will be garnished in toll charges, of which only a fraction will be used to improve the infrastructure for private vehicles.
The package consists of five toll rings around the city centres of Stavanger and Sandnes the business hubs at Forus, Risavika and finally, Stavanger Airport Sola. The most controversial is the toll plaza by the University Hospital in Stavanger (SUS), which comes on top of the stiff parking fees.
Prices: passenger vehicles NOK 44 during peak hours, NOK 22 the rest of the day. Discount with an electronic pass is 20 per cent.
In an email to VG, Minister of Transport, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, emphasizes that the toll package surrounding Jæren has been approved by the local politicians, albeit against the votes from the Progress Party. He says that it is possible to make changes to the packages, but that it is the local policymakers who have to make the decision to do so.
The local grouping on northern Jæren has gathered close to 70,000 participants on the Facebook page “For those who oppose the toll ring in Sandnes and Stavanger” under the parole “Enough is Enough”. They are now seeking closer co-operation with similar groups in the rest of the country.
In the Stavanger region, the motion was passed without prior consultations and the politicians maintain that it is too late in the process for them to change their minds.
A political party against toll roads in Tønsberg
Next autumn there will be a newly founded party to vote for in the municipal election: “The People Action – No To More Toll Roads” in Tønsberg. In a chronicle in Tønsberg Blad writes the founder, Johan M. Nome, that his goal is that everyone should know what toll roads really are and that more people should reject “this economic terror against the poorest.”
The Mayor of Tønsberg, Petter Berg (Conservatives), writes in an email to VG that they are working on introducing a so-called city package for the Tønsberg region, for which the rates are not yet determined.
– This will depend on which trajectories will be used. Other than that, we only have a toll on the European route 18.
The People’s Action Group against toll roads has 27,000 followers in Bergen at the moment.
Prices: small vehicles NOK 54 during the peak hours, NOK 29 the rest of the day. Discount with an Electronic Pass: 20 per cent
In 2016, the inhabitant of Bergen, Trym Aafløy (55), formed the Association The People’s Action against more tolls in Bergen, which now has more than 27,000 followers on Facebook.
This year, Aafløy announced that he is founding a political party and wish to partake in the municipal elections next year.
It is expected that next year electric cars will have to pay a toll in Bergen as well as in Stavanger, albeit at a reduced rate.
Lørenskog: Have to pass through the Oslo toll ring
About 60 new toll plazas will be placed in Oslo and Akershus during next year. These will increase the annual gross income from tolls by about NOK 900 million.
In June, Stage 2 of Oslo Package III was adopted by the Norwegian Parliament. It was decided that a toll ring will be established along the border between Oslo and the Lørenskog municipality.
This means that some residents in Lørenskog have to pay a toll when driving to school, after-school activities (SFO) and all other municipal services. This has led to reactions primarily from the affected residents.
Fears of shop deaths in Lillesand
The group leader of the Conservatives (Høyre) in Lillesand is now openly against the planned package for the region.
In a chronicle in Fædrelandsvennen group leader of the Conservatives in Lillesand, Einar Holmer-Hoven, reacts to the fact that the car owners in Kristiansand are going to be taxed even more than they already are.
– the toll package for the Kristiansand region is currently in consultation. The plan adds approximately 16 toll plazas around Kristiansand and the Sørlandspark, of which 11 are completely new. Existing rates are increased by 50 per cent. The car owners, who for the most part consist of regular families, will be charged with NOK 6.14 billion, he writes.
– Ultimately it is the politicians in Kristiansand who choose this. Nobody else.
Protests in Drammen
In April, the residents went into the streets of Drammen in protest against toll plazas following the Buskerud city package, phase II.
Kongsberg says no
The municipality of Kongsberg has refused to negotiate urban package funding because it will entail financing by tolls.
Protests in Åsane
In Åsane, Bergen, the inhabitants are upset by being surrounded by toll plazas without a dime being spent on them. The name of the action group is: “Stop the outer toll ring at Åsane”.
Wants to change municipality
In the hamlet of Ålvik in Hardanger, residents want to switch from the Kvam to the Voss municipality. The reason is a road toll the inhabitants will have to pay, which are to be used on the municipality centres Norheimsund and Øystese.
Protests at Fana
Residents of Grimseid in the district of Fana in Bergen protest against tolls that will cause them to pay to go to school, kindergarten, shopping and leisure activities.
At Kråkerøy in Østfold, the inhabitants collected 300 signatures to implore the city council of Fredrikstad to reduce the toll rates. The city council has asked the Norwegian state for means to meet this demand.
Actions in Oslo
As part of the agreement between Oslo and Akershus on the development of roads and public transport in and around the capital, additional toll rings and higher fees will be introduced by the red-green majority in the city council.
The action group “Yes to Environment, no to increased Toll Fee’s” has held demonstrations in front of the City Hall and the Parliament, and has more than 26,000 followers on Facebook.
Common to all the groups is the question why Norway has to have road tolls at all, when virtually no other country relies on that, especially since taxes on fuel, VAT and other tariffs are sky high on owning and using private means of transportation – without viable, or cheap, public transport in place as alternatives.
© VG / #Norway Today