Politicians have been bickering in Bergen for months over how their city’s popular new public tram system known as Bybanen should be extended. They finally decided Tuesday night, by the narrowest of margins, and the debate isn’t over yet.
By a vote of 34 to 33, members of the city council approved a measure to extend the tramline through a tunnel to be built under the city’s famed Bryggen, a waterfront collection of historic wooden buildings from the city’s Hanseatic heyday. Others wanted to run the colourful trams right in front of Bryggen, while a third alternative was through another tunnel under Peter Motzfeldts Gate.
Conservative members of the city government scrambled to secure enough votes for the Bryggen tunnel option but at the cost of losing the Christian Democrats as a government coalition partner. Some members of the Conservatives and Progress parties were also voting against their own government, so heated was the debate, and the Conservatives’ group leader, Dag Skansen, said he was sorry the government didn’t get a bigger majority for its Bryggen tunnel alternative.
Many wanted to keep Bryggen free of all cars and public transit, though, and seem to have succeeded in doing so. Questions remain over the risks of tunnel construction under the historic area, but the need for extension of the tram line north to Åsane prevailed. Bergen is now left with a minority government, however, and some were calling the political handling of the entire issue “a national scandal.”