Municipalities in the Netherlands that plan to introduce an environmental zone will now only have two options; access restrictions can only be imposed on diesel fuelled passenger vehicles and vans older than 15 years or older than 20 years, as well as to freight vehicles. No access restrictions can be imposed on petrol vehicles.
The new rules were announced in a letter to parliament including new proposal for the harmonisation of to environmental zones, sent by the secretary of state Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure and Water Management) on 29 June. The rules are a response to the increasing number of municipalities that have instated environmental zone or are planning to, each applying different types of restriction.
Van Veldhoven stated, “With this simple, enforceable and predictable system of environmental zones, the interests of the road user and the importance of good air quality are effectively balanced. It offers municipalities the opportunity to work on their air quality and offers clarity to road users. With this I put an end to the hodgepodge of different zones and motorists know where they stand.”
‘Yellow’ and ‘green’ zones’ for passenger cars and vans in 2020
In order to make the new system as unambiguous as possible, the access regime for cars and vans are interlinked. Between 2020 and 2025, a municipality can opt for a "yellow" or "green" environmental zone for diesel passenger and diesel delivery vans. In the yellow environmental zone, all diesel vehicles with Euroclass 3 or higher are allowed. By 2020 these vehicles will be 20 years and older. In the green environmental zone only diesel vehicles with Euroclass 4 or higher are allowed. These vehicles are 15 years and older by 2020.
From 2025, access restrictions will shift one Euroclass upwards. From that moment on, a municipality for diesel passenger and diesel delivery vans can opt for a “green” or “blue” environmental zone, allowing access to Euro 4 or Euro 5 vehicles and newer ones, respectively. In 2025 these cars are in their turn more than 15 and 20 years old.
The choice to link access restrictions to Euroclasses, has been made as these classes reflect differences in NOx and particulate matter emissions. In time, access will be increasingly restricted to higher Euroclasses, letting the harmonised system grow along with improvements in technology.
For trucks and lorries, a uniform system of access restriction already applies, with vehicles of Euro 4 and newer allowed into environmental zones. Under the new system, municipalities will be given the opportunity to continue this regime until 2022 as part of the green zone.
From 2022 onwards municipalities access could be restricted based on the blue environmental zone, where freight vehicle access is restricted to Euro 6 vehicles. By 2025, the option for setting up a separate Zero Emission zone will be added. In this zone, only zero emission freight vehicles are allowed, in line with the ‘Green Deal Zero Emission City Logistics’ covenant. It is expected that these zero emission zones will be smaller zones that can lie within a larger environmental zone.
Entry to environmental zones will be marked by clear uniform signs and be controlled and enforced using cameras and automatic license plate recognition. This means that motorists do not have to purchase a sticker for their windscreen.
Some elements of the new harmonised system still need further specification. Amongst others, the Ministry, in consultation with municipalities, is working on national exemptions for campers, vehicles for the disabled, and vintage vehicles which are older than 40 years old. Also, options to allow for automatic enforcement of foreign vehicles are being explored, if necessary through bilateral agreements.
Details will be further specified in the coming period, so that this system can take effect on 01 January 2020. It has been agreed that municipalities that plan to implement an environmental zone before that date, will already adopt the new system.
The harmonised system will be evaluated after a few years of operation. This evaluation will include the question if and when access restrictions in the zero emission zone could be extended to other categories of vehicles, taking vehicle fleet developments into account.
Image courtesy of the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management