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Protests Mar Opening of Stockholm Congestion Tax
Protesters use arson and banners to express displeasure at the opening of the congestion charge in Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm, Sweden began its seven month trial of a congestion tax at 6:30am today in the face of violent opposition. One opponent drilled a hole in the computer unit of a tax payment station in √lkistan, north of Stockholm University. Flammable material was inserted into the hole and set on fire, but security was able to extinguish the blaze before permanent damage was done. At Norrtull, a protester hung a banner opposing Social Democrat Mayor Annika Billstrom who flip-flopped on the congestion charge in order to win the support of the Green Party.

According to Stockholm newspaper polling, 80 percent of residents oppose the charge, but voters won't have a say on the charge until a referendum in July. During the trial, the tax will remain low with motorists paying up to 60 kronor (US $7.35) a day for the privilege of driving in the city. The 10 to 20 kronor fee is assessed each time a vehicle passes one of 18 "control stations" surrounding the city center. Computer giant IBM landed the primary contract to operate the complicated payment and motorist tracking system. Those who forget to pay will be charged up to 630 kronor (US $77).

Article Excerpt:
The reaction from commuters was mixed. With many people still on their Christmas break, pressure on the system today was expected to be relatively light, although there were some reports of extra crowds on public transport.
Source: Quiet start for Stockholm congestion charge (The Local (Sweden), 1/3/2006)

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