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Bergen is located on the western coast. With a population of close to 250’000 inhabitants, it is the second largest city in Norway. The Bergen region has a population of close to 350’000.
Bergen was the first Norwegian city to introduce a toll ring scheme. On January 2, 1986, toll collection was introduced on the main roads into Bergen. Due to the geographical location it was possible to make a tight ring with fee collection on only 6 locations. The fact that there had been toll roads in Bergen and the surrounding areas over a long period of time prior to the toll ring, may explain why Bergen was the first city in Norway to introduce such a scheme. At that time, only the city of Singapore had a somewhat similar system in the entire world.
The background for the system was an increase in the traffic and a lack of public funds. The Local Public Roads Administration was a driving force behind this solution, both formally and informally (Bekken and Osland 2004). Two alternatives were put forward: Either the city could rely on public funds and have a suitable trunk road system within 30 years, or they could introduce a toll ring and have the same trunk road system in 12 years. One of the slogans for the tolling system was “As many as possible pay as little as possible for the shortest period as possible for a common good – a suitable trunk road system” At the same time a local political coalition between the major political parties was established. The Bergen toll ring was due to expire at the end of 2000. However, it was prolonged for two years awaiting the new Bergen program.
In 2003, the toll cordon was prolonged through the Bergen Programme. This new package has one very heavy public transport infrastructure investment; a new city tram (“Bybanen”).The main supporters of the city tram were the politicians from the centrum and left wing parties. They managed to have the tram “hooked” on the planned road investments, of which almost all politicians were supporters. The broad compromise for the entire package was based on this combination of road investments and one large public transport investment. The proposal met resistance from the Public Roads Administration both locally and nationally. They were critical of the alternative use of road funds, questioning whether the city tram ws a good alternative to road investments. There were also discussions of changing the toll system in a direction more in line with road pricing. However, one of the major parties in the coalition between the Bergen toll ring is an opponent to anything resembling road pricing. Some of the other parties have also been skeptical. The alternative to prolongation was to introduce a system with two rings and differentiated fares. The expected potential negative response by the voters also influenced the decision. While the city tram has been a place where the political parties were able to mobilize voters, they decided to step carefully on the issue of road pricing.
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