Red-green fear of «war on the cities» from the road toll talks
Increased car traffic, less focus on buses, trams and bike lanes, coupled with wing-clipping of city packages. The opposition fears that this may be the result of the government’s road toll talks.
“I fear it will result in a war on the cities,” Une Bastholm, leader of the Green Party (MDG), tells NTB.
That entails scaling down the public and bicycle share, but maintaining, or even adding more, motorways to her. Bastholm also fears increased demands on municipal contributions to the city development packages – to such a degree – that they are forced to cut back on their effort on elderly care, school and kindergarten.
“I’m also nervous about the zero-growth target, which is obviously in play,” Bastholm continues.
The zero-growth target entails that all growth in traffic in the cities should be by bicycle, public transport or walking.
Bastholm points to the government platform, where it is written that the target will be developed further.
Horror scenario: City packages are shelved
The leaders of the ruling parties have been talking about the easing of road tolls since the beginning of June. The process was triggered by a road toll rebellion in the Progress Party. The talks are not yet over, but there were signals that they are nearing a conclusion during the Arendal Week.
The Progress Party has convened an extraordinary national council meeting on Sunday to discuss the road tolls issue.
Spokesperson on the Environment for Labour (Ap), Espen Barth Eide, believes that the horror scenario is that the government scrap urban development (environmental) packages. He does not, however, believe that that will become the outcome.
“It is my fear that it will wither,” Eide states. He points to the balance between income and reasonable taxation in the form of road tolls.
“In the worst-case scenario, we are provided with poorer public transport, less biking and walking, more cars in the City centre, poorer air quality and increased climate emissions,” the former Cabinet Minister tells NTB.
«Pollution, queuing, chaos»
Several urban environmental packages have already been put into play or stopped as a result of local road toll resistance. City Council for the Environment and Transport in Oslo, Lan Marie Berg (MDG), shares Eide’s concern.
“I am concerned that they will come to an agreement, which will in practice take money from public transport in Oslo and unleash the cars on the city,” she tells NTB.
The red-green city council of Oslo boasts that they have cut emissions in the city by 16 per cent since 2015.
“We fear that the government will put Norwegian cities back many years, to a time of harmful pollution, queuing and chaos,” Environmental Policy spokesperson of the Socialist Party (SV), Lars Haltbrekken, states.
“If the Progress Party wins through, the government has to make it easier to drive into big cities like Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. More cars lead to more harmful pollution,” Haltbrekken tells NTB.
Several points from the negotiations was leaked to Aftenposten last week, to dismay of the Liberals.
The most important points in the negotiations are new appropriations for repayment of road toll debt, increased focus on public transport, cuts in municipal extravaganza and increased state share in the funding of urban growth packages, according to the newspaper.
Efforts are also being made to strip all projects of luxury, as well as to provide road toll fees with a better social profile by shielding toddler families and introducing tax deductions for road toll expenses.
The demands of the Progress Party ahead of the negotiations were to stop new urban packages, alter the zero-growth target, erase road toll debt, cut costs in existing city packages, impose stricter claims on local government equity when the state contributes money to urban areas, and say no to road pricing (aka Big Brother by GPS).
The Norwegian state rakes in about NOK 13 billion in road tolls this year alone. The government parties must agree on the burden on motorists next year at the budget conference 28-29th August.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today