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Hamburg becomes first German city to ban diesel vehicles on some roads

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By Robert Hackwill
Signs go up in Hamburg warning motorists
Signs go up in Hamburg warning motorists

Germany's second largest city Hamburg is closing two of its busiest streets to older diesel-powered vehicles in a bid to force Berlin to take action on a national level. Hamburg is the first Germany city to take such a measure to improve public health.

Just over two kilometres of the city's 4000 kilometres of roads are affected. Protesters gathered in support of the ban, but critics say drivers will seek alternate routes taking their pollution elsewhere while it will be difficult to enforce the measure, which some dismiss as a stunt.

"We know that it has a political signal effect because we're the first to implement this, and I'm assuming that other cities will follow because they have no choice, and those who do not want this, among others the Federal Minister of Transport, should now take the car industry into account. Without the fraud of the car companies and the inaction of the federal government, we would not have to take these measures," says Greens Senator Jens Kerstan.

"You don't need an expert to tell you, you can simply smell it, you can hear it. You have to be careful because the cars speed along. If you drive to Blankenese, to the villa area, the air is wonderful, you think you are in the park," said one local woman.

Hamburg and several other cities are angry that Berlin appears to be protecting the car industry at the expense of public health.

Police will begin checks from next week on, but will give no penalties in the first weeks. Violations will earn a fine of €25 for cars and €75 for trucks. As soon as Nox-Emmissions go down below the legal limits, the restrictions will be cancelled.