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Warsaw to Launch Clean Transport Zone in July, Residents Get Grace Period

ECOLOGYWarsaw to Launch Clean Transport Zone in July, Residents Get Grace Period

Across Europe, there are approximately 330 clean transport zones that help to reduce pollution levels and improve air quality in cities. The first such zone in Poland will begin operation on July 1st of this year in Warsaw. However, the restrictions associated with it will not immediately affect the capital’s residents – Warsaw residents will be exempt from restrictions until December 31, 2027, which is meant to give them time to prepare for the new rules. The zone will undergo changes every few years, progressively allowing more modern vehicles to be in operation, informs Piotr Siergiej, spokesperson for the Polish Smog Alarm.

A clean transport zone (CTZ) is a designated urban area where vehicles fulfilling specific emission standards are permitted, leading to a reduction in air pollution. The Warsaw City Council passed a resolution last December regarding the establishment of a CTZ in the city. The zone will encompass the entire downtown area and sections of the surrounding central districts. The zone’s boundaries, coinciding with main roads and railway lines, will be marked by Prymasa Tysiąclecia Avenue, Jerozolimskie Avenue, Łazienkowska Route, United States Avenue, and Wiatraczna Street, and then by the rail tracks along the northern railway bypass to Prymasa Tysiąclecia. The Warsaw’s City Hall reveals that the overall CTZ will cover an approximate area of 37 square kilometers, constituting 7% of the city’s surface area.

The clean transport zone will appear in the city on July 1, 2024, in the expanded downtown area. As for vehicles allowed within this zone, there are two restrictions: for diesel-engined cars that are older than 18 years and petrol-engined cars older than 27 years. This refers to extremely old vehicles indeed, explains Piotr Siergiej.

Boundaries of the designated zone will be indicated by specific signs (not barricades), and according to article 96c of the Penal Code, disregarding boundaries prohibition will result in a fine of 500 PLN ($125).

Warsaw’s air pollution is among the worst in Europe, with one of the primary sources being private cars used by citizens. According to a vehicle emission study on Warsaw’s streets in the fall of 2020 by the ICCT (International
Council for Clean Transportation), older cars, particularly diesel ones, were found to be the major contributors to air pollution. Measurements of close to 150,000 vehicles showed cars manufactured before 2006, although constituting only 17% of the fleet, were responsible for 37% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and 52% of particulate matter (PM) emissions. Thus, the capital has decided to introduce a CTZ to reduce road traffic-related harmful emissions.

The emission standards requirements for vehicles within Warsaw’s CTZ will be systematically tightened every two years starting from 2026. The zone is anticipated to reach full functionality and final shape by 2032, with the
introduction of the last, fifth phase of restrictions for diesel-engined cars manufactured before 2020 (maximum vehicle age 12 years or Euro6d standard) and petrol-engined cars manufactured before 2014 (maximum vehicle age 18 years or Euro6).

Resident of Warsaw – who are registered here and pay taxes – will be exempted from these regulations. The CTZ rules will not affect them for the next four years, until the beginning of 2028. Warsaw residents, even with much older vehicles, will be able to move around in the CTZ while a resident from elsewhere will not.

Nearly 70% of adult Warsaw residents, including 66% of regular drivers, support the implementation of a clean transport zone in the capital city. Moreover, according to a survey conducted at the end of 2022, as many as 87% of Warsaw residents want local authorities to act to reduce air pollution.

Clean transport zones have a positive impact on air quality, as seen in Barcelona, Berlin, or London, where significant reductions in suspended dust and nitrogen oxides, sometimes by up to 50%, have been noted. Although the impact of such a zone in Warsaw may be lesser due to geographical limitations, the importance of its existence and subsequent adaptation of residents to it is significant.

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