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Thousands of Danes support bid to make Great Belt Bridge toll-free

A petition calling for Denmark’s Great Belt Bridge to become toll free has been signed by 50,000 people, meaning it must be discussed in parliament.

The Great Belt Bridge can been seen in the distance as cars pass toll signs on Denmark's E20 motorway.
The Great Belt Bridge can been seen in the distance as cars pass toll signs on Denmark's E20 motorway. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

A so-called citizens’ bill or borgerforslag must be taken up for discussion by parliament if 50,000 people sign it. Such a bill calling for the end of tolls on the Great Belt Bridge reached the required number in less than a month, local media TVMidtVest reported.

The current toll for a normal car without discounts on the bridge is 250 kroner. This can be reduced to 194 kroner if automatic payment using number plate technology is activated. Lorries pay 610 kroner to cross the bridge, which connects Zealand and Funen.

The petition asks for tolls to be scrapped from July 1st this year.

It was started by Bent Thodsen, the owner of a camping site in North Jutland town Hanstholm who rarely uses the bridge himself, according to TVMidtVest.

Thodsen argued that the cost of building the bridge, which opened in 1998, has long been paid off by toll revenues. He also said any party which backed the bill could be onto a vote-winner.

“I think that half of all Danes who have the right to vote would want it to be free to drive over the Great Belt Bridge,” he said to TVMidtVest.

Revenues from tolls on the bridge reached around three billion kroner in 2021, the media writes.

The bridge’s construction cost was 21.4 billion kroner in 1998 prices.

The debt from building the bridge will not be fully paid off until 2032, however, according to a 2020 report by motorists’ association FDM.

That is because a large chunk of the revenues earned by holding company Storebælt A/S are paid to the Danish state, with a set proportion channelled into paying off the company’s debt. The money paid to the state is largely reinvested on infrastructure in other areas.

The schedule for repayment of the debt has not been changed since the bridge was constructed, FDM wrote in 2020.

Thodsen called for more people to sign the petition even after it reaching the necessary threshold to go to parliament, in order for it to “carry weight” with lawmakers.

“There should be more pressure put on so the tax minister shakes in his trousers. This is just a milestone and a step on the way,” he said.

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How much money does Denmark earn from parking tickets?

Danish municipalities last year saw a record-high revenue from parking fines, parking permits and parking tickets.

How much money does Denmark earn from parking tickets?

Nationally, municipalities earned just under one billion kroner from the three types of parking fees, according to a review of municipal parking revenues in 2021 conducted by motorists’ interest organisation FDM.

The exact gross figure earned from parking fees and payments was 994,788,475 kroner, the organisation found.

The total is around 100 million kroner higher than it was in 2020 and 26 percent higher than it was in 2014, FDM said in a press statement.

“This is a drastic amount of money paid by motorists to municipalities for parking,” FDM senior consultant Dennis Lange said in the statement.

“We recognise that some municipalities need to regulate traffic with paid parking. But with a parking revenue that has only increased over the years, there’s reason to critically assess municipal parking arrangements, which can resemble a calculated revenue stream in breach of the law,” he said.

Revenues from paid parking in municipalities have particularly increased, with these now comprising almost three-quarters of total parking earnings, up from two-thirds previously.

Municipal paid parking – distinct from charges made by private car parks – exists in 26 of Denmark’s 98 municipalities. Parking permits required by local residents are included in this category.

The number of municipalities with paid parking has also increased, partly accounting for the overall higher total revenue according to FDM.

Paid parking zones have also been extended in some locations.

Copenhagen Municipality is the largest contributor to the national total by some distance.

In 2021, motorists in Copenhagen spent a total of 629 million kroner on parking. The second-highest total, in Aarhus, amounts to just under 100 million kroner.

Other densely-populated municipalities, including Frederiksberg, Odense and Aalborg, also figure near the top of the list.

But parking revenues have increase in all municipalities, FDM said.

“It’s odd to have large revenues from motorists while also wanting to make it difficult for them to use cities,” Lange said.

Money raised by local authorities from parking should be spent on large car parks outside of urban centres and close to public transport links, he argued.

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