Health vs cars: judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone

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By Natalie Huet  & Isabelle Kumar
Health vs cars: judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone

Vehicles entering certain parts of central Madrid will once again be fined after a judge ruled that traffic restrictions in the Spanish capital must be maintained.

The ruling comes just days after the city's new conservative mayor decided to scrap the controversial low emissions zone. 

The move sparked protests across the capital, and on Friday a local court suspended it, arguing that "the health of Madrid" was more important than "the right to travel by car".

Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), made the decision to temporarily halt the fines for vehicles that entered the central area, known as Madrid Central. 

The scheme was introduced last November by former leftist mayor Manuela Carmena, and it has proved divisive: while many have welcomed the crackdown on car pollution, business owners have complained about losing clients, and employees of having a harder time getting to work.

As of Monday (July 8), drivers who do not have permission to enter the low-emissions zone will once again face fines of €45 to €90. 

The ruling, however, is a temporary one, and environmental activists are still worried about the fate of the anti-pollution scheme.

"We know that Madrid Central, from what we've seen so far, is probably the most successful low emissions zone in Europe. And if it gets reversed, of course this sends a fatal signal to lots of other cities who are trying to really improve air quality," Jens Müller, air quality manager at the environmental group Transport & Environment (T&E), said in an interview on Euronews Now.

"We really hope that we can preserve this important policy. Instead of reversing it, let's improve it: that's our message to the decision-makers in Madrid."

You can watch the full interview by clicking on the player above.