The City of Helsinki Board has voted 8-6 in favour of introducing congestion charges for the Finnish capital. The decision was made after the proposal had earlier been rejected twice, with a heated – if short – debate preceding the announcement.
The Left Alliance, the Social Democrat Party, the Green League and the Centre Party all supported the idea, while opponents included The National Coalition Party and the Swedish People’s Party. Arto Bryggare of the Social Democrats abstained from voting.
Deputy chair of the board, the Green League’s Mari Puoskari, said the decision was historic. “For the first time in history, the City of Helsinki is taking a positive stand on congestion charging. This was a very significant decision,” Puoskari claimed.
The City Board will look to the Ministry of Transport and Communications to undertake the new legislation preparations. Several specifications were incorporated in the decision, including stipulations that the region’s public transport network should be allocated funding from the newly collected finances.
“The legislation relating to congestion charges should define that Helsinki Region Transport (HSL), the new municipal transport authority that will begin operating from 1 January 2010, will have the right to collect such charges,” Puoskari said. ”Then the collected funds would not flow to the provinces. If the proposed congestion charges reduce the use of private cars, while increasing the use of public transport, we will need funds to develop our public transport system,” she added.
However, the decision was not met with such a warm welcome by the National Coalition Party’s City Board Chairman Risto Rautava. ”In my view, this was one of the most idiotic decisions made during this autumn. Expressly the decision to ask the ministry to initiate preparations for new legislation on the basis of an insufficient study,” he argued.