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17. 04. 12. - 15:59

Petrol price regulation planned

People’s Party’s (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner has justified his decision to call for the creation of a stricter fuel price monitoring programme.

One litre of diesel cost 0.72 Euros in Austria 10 years ago. The price climbed to more than twice this amount over the years. Diesel petrol cost 1.47 Euros on average in Austria last week, according to car club ÖAMTC. The price for Eurosuper petrol is similar. Car petrol is cheaper in Austrian than six of its seven neighbouring states despite the price hikes. Only Slovenian motorists must pay less for fuel these days. Speaking about the developments in Austria, Mitterlehner told the Salzburger Nachrichten: "I have received hundreds of e-mails off people claiming that politicians are not interested in what is going on here."

The minister compared his decision with self-defence. He added that customers must not suffer under mineral oil companies’ arbitrariness. Mitterlehner explained that his ministry planned to set up a system for a "price corridor" valid for periods with lots of car traffic like holidays. The system will mean that Austria’s service stations must not charge more than the average price they asked for on the seven to 10 days before of the busy period. Mitterlehner dismissed fears that petrol stations would jack up their prices disproportionally in the time span when prices were checked. He claimed that competition between the petrol station managers was strong enough to avert such developments.

Mitterlehner described the actions of the petrol companies as "not acceptable". He accused them of doing nothing but increasing prices. Mitterlehner said the firms failed to consider customer service aspects and revealed that what happened last Easter helped him in making a decision. Research shows that fuel has been more costly during Easter in Austria in all of the past few years despite no such developments in international petrol trade. The economy minister said the upcoming directive regarding prices during public holidays would be based on concepts in Luxembourg and Slovenia. He told the Salzburger Nachrichten that the envisaged project had nothing to do with an enforced price regulation. "I want to recreate a market-economy systematic. The market itself is supposed to decide of the price for car fuel."

More cars than ever before were sold in Austria last year when 356,000 new vehicles were registered for usage, up by 8.4 per cent compared to 2010, the previous record year. Market leader Volkswagen (VW) sold 65,000 cars in Austria last year. Meanwhile, Federal Railways (ÖBB) boss Christian Kern claims that his company increasingly benefits from the soaring petrol prices. Kern said ÖBB’s regional services were between five and 17 per cent more popular in the first three months of 2012 than during the same time span of 2011. ÖBB did especially well in Styria and Carinthia as far as attracting new customers was concerned in the first quarter of the current year, the ex-Verbund AG manager added.

High car fuel prices could also keep Austria’s new cycling boom alive. Vienna’s Greens Party Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou reacted to the ongoing developments by announcing plans to expand the city’s network of cycling paths by 20 kilometres (km) to almost 1,220 km. The construction projects would be carried out in the coming months, she said. Cycling makes for a share of five to six per cent in the overall volume of individual traffic in Vienna. Copenhagen is the European leader. The Danish capital’s cyclists claim a share of 38 per cent in daily traffic.

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