Milan's version of London's congestion
charge went into effect yesterday causing
few of the feared traffic snarl-ups but
prompting fresh claims that the city was
unprepared for the scheme.
version of London's congestion charge went into effect
yesterday (Wednesday), causing few of the feared traffic
snarl-ups but prompting fresh claims that the city was
unprepared for the scheme, reports ANSA.
Milan is the first Italian city to introduce a pollution
tax and the handling of the 'Ecopass' scheme is being
watched closely by mayors in other traffic-clogged
cities up and down the peninsula.
With many Milanese businesses still closed for the New
Year festivities, traffic was much lighter than normal
on Wednesday and so the anti-pollution initiative had a
fairly easy launch. Traffic police reported no problems
with parking on the fringes of the protected zone and
said their main task had been to give information to
confused motorists. But they admitted the key test would
come next Monday when the city really returned to work.
''It's going to be much more hectic. Then we'll be
dancing a tarantella,'' said one officer.
Off the roads, there were annoying difficulties for
motorists wanting to pay their Ecopass tax by credit
card via Internet or the phone line set up by the city
council for this purpose. Both payment channels were
flooded with requests on the day before the new system
came into effect and promptly broke down under the
By Wednesday morning only a few thousand Milanese
drivers had paid the tax but officials pointed out that
they had until midnight on Thursday to do so. Mayor
Letizia Moratti, who has pushed the plan through despite
the opposition of shopkeepers and motorists' clubs,
assured Milanese people on Wednesday that the ''teething
problems'' were being overcome. She pronounced the
launch ''positive'' but stressed that no real judgment
could be made until the scheme had been working for a
year. The Ecopass scheme aims to reduce fine particle
PM10 pollution by 30% and cut traffic volume by 10%.
Anyone driving a polluting car into the central area
without paying the tax - up to 10 euros a day according
to how 'dirty' the car is - will be automatically sent
an 80-euro fine. New cars respecting the latest EU
emission standards can enter for free. On a normal
working day about 90,000 cars go in and out of the
centre of Milan. According to studies, when the system
is up and running, about 36,000 cars will pay the fee
City officials said that within an hour of the
initiative coming into effect on Wednesday, some 4,500
vehicles had entered the city and about 20% of these had
had to pay the tax. ''This is just a first step. As time
goes by we'll see how to modify the measure and to make
it more effective,'' Milan traffic chief Edoardo Croci
said. Meanwhile, opposition to the Ecopass scheme did
not go away. Shopkeepers in the centre, fearful of
falling business, threatened to pass this ''onerous
imposition'' on to customers through higher prices.
Milan's Automobile Club said it wasn't against pollution
taxes in principle but insisted that the time was not
''ripe'' for the Ecopass because first public transport
should be boosted and more car parks built in the area
around the Ecopass zone. ''The way it's starting off
today, the initiative is hard to understand and manage.
It looks like a new tax weighing on those who, for want
of an alternative, cannot do without their cars''.
Opponents of the traffic levy were out on Milan's
streets on Wednesday collecting signatures for a
petition demanding a city referendum on the scheme.
Polls carried out recently by the media have shown that
the local population is evenly divided on the Ecopass.
So far Mayor Moratti has talked tough, saying she will
push ahead because her popularity is ''less important
than the health of the Milanese people''. Last month she
wrote a letter to 765,000 city residents appealing to
them to cooperate.