In an effort to reduce air pollution in the Norwegian capital, local branches of both the Labour Party and the Conservatives are joining forces to make it more expensive to drive older, less environmentally friendly cars. They want to link the level of automobile tolls to the level of exhaust they emit.
If their proposal is implemented, owners of older-model vehicles are likely to have to pay much more than today’s already hefty fee of NOK 26 (USD 4.50) to drive into Oslo. The idea is that polluters should have to pay for his or her own emissions, and that driving cars that are better for the environment, such as hybrid vehicles, should be rewarded.
“Fees must be high enough that they will change behavior,” Jan Bøhler, head of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) in Oslo, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Charging tolls linked to a vehicle’s emission levels would likely replace earlier plans to implement additional rush hour fees at the toll gates that form a ring around Oslo.
Critics voiced immediate opposition to the proposal, arguing that it will unfairly affect those with low incomes, as they are most likely to drive older cars. Information advisor Nils Sødal of the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF), Scandinavia’s largest automobile organization, told NRK the proposal “affects the average Joe, people who can’t afford to purchase modern, environment-friendly vehicles.”
The Oslo toll ring was established in the late 1980s and has had a rather controversial history. Built to help fund the development of roads and restrict the amount of cars in the inner-city, the toll ring was only intended to be in place until 2007.
Instead of being eliminated, though, the toll ring has been expanded and updated and now consists of automated entry points around the periphery of Oslo, where passing cars are photographed and owners are billed retroactively. A “Visitors payment” scheme is available for tourists, who can register a credit card to which the fare will be charged.
Commuters driving into downtown Oslo from the west now must pay two tolls, to help fund future highway improvements and encourage them to switch to public transport. The new extra toll has raised the cost of driving into the city to about USD 7.