Low emission zones in Europe catch unwary drivers

Low emission zones

Low emission zones in Europe require drivers to pay a fee while driving in major cities or face a fine if they fail to comply.

Low emission zones in more than 200 cities across 15 countries restrict vehicles with higher emissions from entering unless a fee is paid or the vehicle is pre-registered with the necessary authority.

Half of countries researched in a new report operate the low emission zone (LEZ) all year-round including Austria, Belgium, Germany and UK (where they are known as ULEZ). Fines or penalty charges for driving through low emission zones range from €45 (£38) in Spain to €2,180 (£1,863) in Austria. 11 new low emission zones planned for the UK in 2022 including Manchester, Oxford and Bristol.

Airport Parking & Hotels is helping drivers avoid unwanted fines or penalty charges by comparing the new rules for driving in Low Emission Zones across eight of the most popular European cities. APH.com’s research compares the rules, costs and paperwork required for driving in major European cities popular with UK holidaymakers, including Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Milan, Madrid and London.

Half of the countries research operate LEZ’s all year round, so drivers are advised to plan ahead and check the driving rules and regulations for their holiday destination or risk a fine, which can range from €45 (£38) in Madrid to a hefty €1,800 (£1,540) in Barcelona and €2,180 (£1,853) in Austria. Each of the eight cities researched regulate different vehicles with the environmental ‘Pickerl’ sticker in Austria currently only obligatory for N-category vehicles (such as vans, trucks and heavy trucks) whereas the Crit’air vignette in France can be divided into six categories and colours, depending on the year of registration, energy efficiency and vehicle emissions.

For those visiting Belgium, drivers are required to have a valid registration which is available free of charge for all cities. However, if the vehicle does not meet the access requirements for entering Low emission zones, motorists must also purchase a LEZ Day Pass or pay an admission fee with costs dependant on the city and type of vehicle. For those visiting Antwerp by car, the fines increase for each offence including €150 (£128) for the first offence, €250 (£213) for the second offence and €350 (£299) for further offences within 12 months so having the correct paperwork is a must.

In Germany, there is a national framework of low emission zones affecting all vehicles (except motorcycles), 24 hours a day with some cities, including Berlin, Stuttgart and Hamburg, imposing a zonal diving ban on vehicles not reaching a minimum diesel Euro 6 standard. A sticker must be purchased and displayed in the windscreen before driving into the zone, costing approximately €6 (£5).

The UK has 11 cities planning to introduce LEZ’s in 2022, including Manchester, Oxford, Bristol and Birmingham. Greater London also expanded its low emission zone in March 2021 beyond the city centre, requiring vehicles that don’t meet the emissions standards of Diesel Euro 3 and Diesel Euro 6 to pay a daily fee of £12.50.

“An increasing number of European countries are introducing low emission zones across cities and towns in a bid to reduce congestion and air pollution,” said Nick Caunter, managing director of Airport Parking and Hotels. “With more destinations joining the list it’s important drivers are aware of the rules and regulations before arriving on holiday and we hope the APH research will help savvy drivers ensure they have the correct fees, certificate or sticker displayed for their vehicle.”

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