Ban will stop 214,000 vehicles from using two key roads as part of pollution crackdown
Philip OltermannLast modified on Wed 23 May 2018 23.04 BST
Hamburg is to become the first German city to ban some diesel cars to improve air quality, setting a template for other urban centres in the country. The ban will affect about 214,000 cars, more than two-thirds of the diesel vehicles registered in Germany’s second-largest city.
Authorities in the northern port city said on Wednesday some older vehicles would be barred from two of its main arteries from 31 May. “Driving limits for older diesel vehicles can now come into force as planned” thanks to a decision by a top court, the city-state’s government said.
A 1.6km (one mile) stretch of Stresemannstraße highway will be closed to older diesel trucks, while a 580-metre stretch of Max-Brauer-Allee will be barred to diesel cars of the Euro-5 standard and older. Public transport buses and drivers who are residents on the affected routes are exempt from the ban.
Hamburg authorities have installed signposts highlighting alternative routes, with critics warning that the ban in its current form will merely lead to higher emissions levels in other parts of the city.
Hamburg is one of about 80 German cities where nitrogen dioxide levels regularly surpass the European commission’s threshold of 40 microgram per cubic metre (µg/m3).
The decision comes after Germany’s top administrative court ruled in February that cities could ban diesel motors to improve air quality.
Last week the European commission announced it would refer Germany, as well as several other EU member states, to the court of justice over lax air-quality measures.
Justifying the crackdown on diesel cars, Hamburg’s senate explicitly made a link to the Dieselgate scandal, which came to light in 2015 when Volkswagen was found to be using “defeat devices”, a cheat software that made the vehicles pollute the air less heavily only under test conditions.