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Clean Transport Zone for Krakow Delayed Over Legal Challenges

ECOLOGYClean Transport Zone for Krakow Delayed Over Legal Challenges

The Provincial Administrative Court in Krakow ruled on January 11, to completely nullify the resolution concerning the clean transport zone in Krakow due to formal errors. “Now there will be new regulations and a new zone. However, I would wager that the SCT project in Krakow will enter procedural stages only in the fall of this year or even later,” says Piotr Siergiej, the spokesman for the Polish Smog Alert. As he points out, Krakow and Warsaw are currently the only cities where the implementation of the SCT is planned. The capital’s zone is expected to start functioning already in the middle of this year.

Krakow – as the first city in Poland – adopted the resolution for the introduction of a clean transport zone by the end of 2022. However, the former Voivode of Lesser Poland, Łukasz Kmita, filed a complaint against the SCT resolution. He pointed out that the Krakow City Council did not include elements in the adopted resolution that should be there under the Act on Electromobility and Alternative Fuels. This specifically related to the insufficient delineation of the SCT area boundaries and the lack of detailed regulations concerning the movement within the zone itself. The former voivode of Lesser Poland also accused the Krakow City Council of excessively interfering with the sphere of constitutional rights and freedoms, such as the freedom of movement. In connection with this complaint, on January 11, the Provincial Administrative Court in Krakow decided to completely nullify the resolution concerning the SCT in Krakow due to formal errors. It took into consideration the complaint regarding the insufficient delineation of the planned zone boundaries, which led to the invalidation of the entire resolution. However, the court did not question the need to create an SCT in Krakow.

“The court has overturned the provisions concerning the clean transport zone in Krakow, so now there will be new regulations and a new zone,” emphasizes Piotr Siergiej in a conversation with Newseria Biznes. “The timeline is quite significant here. First, written judgement of the court must come. Then the city can respond to these allegations and develop new regulations that will comply with the court’s ruling. When they do so in a form that cannot be challenged, then the zone will proceed further. However, soon we have local elections, then there will be a change in the local government, then the holidays will come. It will probably be after the holidays when the Krakow clean transport zone project will be submitted for consultations. They will last probably a month, maybe longer. That’s why I assume that the SCT project in Krakow will enter procedural stages in the fall of this year or even later.

For years, the Capital of Lesser Poland has been recording some of the worst air quality indicators. According to the Supreme Audit Office data, in Krakow over 76 percent of nitrogen dioxide from places where standards are exceeded comes precisely from the movement of combustion engine vehicles. Therefore, the medical and scientific community has appealed to the city authorities to maintain the SCT. The appeal pointed out that thanks to the implementation of the zone and the reduction of emissions from transport in Krakow, nearly 300 deaths per year could be avoided, and pregnant women, children, and the elderly are most exposed to the effects of smog in the city.

“In Krakow, the zone will probably appear, but I think it will be only at the end of this year, possibly next year. And it will be a zone that the court will not undermine. It’s a pity that its implementation is delayed, but unfortunately, we have to learn from this that if the regulations concerning the clean transport zone are poorly written, the court can order their amendment,” says the spokesman for the Polish Smog Alert.

Krakow city councilors also supported the maintenance of the SCT plans, rejecting last week the initiative “Krakow for Drivers” demanding the cancellation of the zone in the city. Krakow Smog Alert emphasizes that specific decisions concerning the SCT should be the first actions of the new President and his administration, which the residents of Krakow will choose in April 2024.

“The introduction of clean transport zones encounters various problems, which are usually connected with the fact that we do not want any restrictions. This is a basic argument. We justify it by limiting our freedom, we hear voices that poor, non-wealthy people will not have anything to get into the cities. This libertarian argument seems to be most frequently emphasized. However, it seems quite obvious to me that one person’s freedom ends where it limits the freedom of another person – in this case, his right to breathe clean air. We simply cannot agree to drive old diesels and old cars in our cities that pollute the air. Drivers also breathe this air,” says the expert.

A Clean Transport Zone (SCT) is a city area where vehicles meeting specific standards can move freely, reducing air pollution. The municipality decides the shape and entry standards for each clean transport zone.

“Polish cities need clean transport zones. Currently, we have two planned zones in the country, in Warsaw and Krakow. For comparison, there are already 330 such zones in EU countries, and their number is expected to rise to over 500 in the next year or two. This shows a huge gap between Poland and the European Union and how we care for the health of residents of large cities,” emphasizes Piotr Siergiej.

At the end of December last year, the City Council of Warsaw voted to create such a zone in the capital. It will cover approx. 8 percent of the city area – almost the entire downtown and parts of the Wola, Ochota districts and small areas in Praga. The Warsaw SCT will be introduced from July 1 this year – then all drivers entering the city will start to face restrictions related to the zone. Diesels produced before 2006 (standard at least Euro4) and petrol cars produced before 1997 (standard at least Euro2) will not be allowed into the city. The designated zone boundaries will be indicated by special signs, and violation of the ban will be subject to a 500 PLN fine. Importantly, the restrictions will not initially affect the residents of the capital – they will be exempt from restrictions until December 31, 2027, which is supposed to give Warsaw residents time to prepare for the new rules.

Interestingly, according to research commissioned by the Warsaw City Hall, almost 70% of adult residents of Warsaw, including 66% of regularly driving car drivers, support the introduction of a clean transport zone in the capital. Similarly, in Krakow, over 60 percent of the citizens support the creation of the zone after familiarizing themselves with its design. This solution enjoys higher support among women and people who seldom use a car, but also among drivers there are more supporters of SCT than opponents.

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