Milan Mayor urges city to accept pollution fee
Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti has appealed to the city's residents to cooperate with her scheme to introduce a pollution fee in central zones along the lines of London's congestion charge.
The Ecopass initiative, which kicks off on January 2, will impose a fee of 2-10 euros on anyone wanting to take a polluting car into an area measuring eight square kilometres at the centre of the city.
Non-polluting vehicles will be able to enter the zone and circulate freely. Everyone else will have to pay, for example by buying one of the 'scratch' tickets are now on sale at key points in Milan.
In a letter which is being sent to 765,000 Milanese residents, Moratti reminded the population of the traffic clogged city that her administration was working for their health.
''What I ask of all Milanese people is to participate fully in this project, as in any other action to make Milan more beautiful and more liveable,'' she wrote.
The Ecopass initiative, which Moratti has pushed through despite widespread opposition, aims to reduce traffic in the city centre by 10% and PM10 fine particle pollution by 30%.
London's congestion charge, introduced in 2003, has reduced traffic by 16% and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 18.4%.
The Milan mayor acknowledged that some teething troubles were likely in the early days of the new pollution charge and asked citizens to be patient and cooperative.
''The things that help improve our standard of living cannot be sorted out overnight,'' she said. ''We need a common sense of commitment to spread throughout the city''.
Opponents of the pollution charge reportedly include former premier Silvio Berlusconi, normally a political ally of Moratti, and the Northern League, which has called for a city referendum on the question.
Polls conducted by the media have indicated the local population is fairly evenly divided on the Ecopass while the majority agrees something ought to be done to reduce pollution in the city.
According to Corriere della Sera, Milan's traffic wardens are complaining that they lack adequate information to enforce the new rules.
But there was support on Tuesday from Pirelli Chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera, whose company headquarters is in the heart of Milan.
''I'm in favour of anything that allows us to make Milan more liveable,'' he said, noting that in Milan windy days were extremely rare so the city's air did not get cleaned by natural means.
Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio also express support although he warned that the experiment ''needs to be monitored carefully to see whether it helps reduce smog and doesn't just raise taxes for the Milanese''.
He said it would only be a success if it meant buses and underground trains were up to the task of transporting more people about the city.