The Norwegian government promises to allocate NOK 120 million to reduced ferry prices in the proposal for a revised national budget for 2021. By 2025, prices will be halved.
“We have good news, not least for District Norway,” Minister of Transport Knut Arild Hareide (KrF) told news bureau NTB.
Together with District Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland (H) and Minister of Climate and Environment Sveinung Rotevatn (V), he is now ready to unveil the government’s plan for halving ferry prices.
The plan has two steps:
* In the proposal for the revised national budget, the government is setting aside NOK 120 million to reduce ferry fares in the second half of this year. Out of the allocation, NOK 55 million will go to the county road ferries and 65 million to the national road ferries. The allocation will ensure a price cut of 10%.
* In the next few years, the cuts will continue at 10% per year until 2025. Then the price level will be halved.
The counties decide
The cost of a 10% cut is NOK 240 million in 2021 when the reduction takes effect throughout the year.
That means that halving the prices will cost the state an estimated NOK 1.2 billion per year.
But Hareide cannot guarantee that the fares will be cut equally on all ferries. On the county road connections, it is up to the counties themselves to decide.
“We put the money on the table. Then we have to see how the local priorities are on this,” Hareide said.
He pointed out that it also varies from county to county how much prices have increased in recent years.
Demands from the opposition
The ferry plan comes in response to an order from an oppositional majority in the Norwegian parliament (Storting).
In January, the Labor Party (AP) made an election promise to halve ferry prices. That triggered a fierce “bidding war” in the opposition where the Progress Party (FRP) went the furthest with a promise of free ferries in the long run.
The conclusion was a decision in the Storting in February that a united opposition supported. The government was asked to redo the revised national budget and reduce prices already in 2021. It also had to prepare a binding plan for halving the prices.
The three governing parties all voted against the proposal. Helleland nevertheless says that the opposition was not behind the decision.
“We are the ones in charge now. And we have worked hard to bring down prices,” she said.
Helleland and Hareide had to face the so-called ferry uprising in January last year.
One of the first things they did as ministers was therefore to travel to Møre og Romsdal to meet ferry commuters. At that time, they could not promise cuts in prices.
Hareide believes it is easy for the opposition to demand cuts.
“The difficult job is to get it into the annual budgets and follow it up.
“But I have great faith that now that the government has done that job, we will not fail on this,” he said.
Autopass and electric ferries
Two factors, in particular, have driven prices up in recent years. One is the introduction of payment with Autopass, and the other is the transition to electric ferries.
“It is actually quite extraordinary what we are doing now. In 2015, there was only one electric battery ferry. Now we have 70, and we are phasing in more continuously,” the Minister of Climate and Environment said.
“When we make arrangements for the price to go down 10% already this year, it will affect people’s family finances,” he added.
Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews
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