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Germany

Germany Mulls Toll For Cars

A suggestion by Germany‘s transport minister to introduce a car toll for some sections of the Autobahn to bring in extra money has been criticized by automobile associations and politicians across the board.

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They could help to fill the budget hole.

Trying to placate opponents of a car toll, German Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe on Sunday said that the government had no plans to privatize the country's entire highway system.

Verkehrsminister Manfred Stolpe

Manfred Stolpe

"I'm very cautious with this because that would mean that everyone would have to pay," Stolpe (photo) said according to news reports. But he added that he intended to push for a car toll on certain highway sections such as bridges and tunnels that are built with private money.

Stolpe is in dire need to use his funds wisely as delays in introducing a truck-toll system have already left a huge hole in the budget.

"These additional funds are needed," the Social Democrat said, referring to a possible car toll. "Next year is going to be bad and 2006 will be even worse."

While some, such as Greens parliamentarian Antje Hermenau, praised the suggestion and said the government should privatize the entire highway system to fill the budget hole, others said the idea was ludicrous.

"I think nothing of it," said Albert Schmidt, a transport expert for the Greens party, which is the junior government coalition partner. "We don't even have the truck toll yet."

Car manufacturers worry about business

Opposition politicians also criticized the proposal as "poison for the country."

"It's an audacity that citizens should pay for the truck toll disaster," said Markus Söder, the secretary general of Bavaria's Christian Social Union.

Officials for Germany's largest automobile club, the ADAC, said they were glad to hear that Stolpe didn't plan to introduce a car toll throughout the country.

But Bernd Gottschalk, the president of the Association of the German Automotive Industry, said a car toll could harm manufacturers even more as people were already dealing with sky-rocketing gas prices. Talk about further charges for car owners should stop immediately to make sure that Germany's ailing car industry isn't damaged any further, Gottschalk said.

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