Environment zone Utrecht symbolic of local politics in the Netherlands

Older diesel transport vehicles are no longer allowed into the city center by the Utrecht city council.
ER Classics Desktop 2022

The Utrecht city council has approved an environmental zone for freight traffic. This means that older trucks and delivery vans will now be banned from the city center. RTV Utrecht did mention that an exemption is possible for local entrepreneurs. At the same council meeting, it was decided to give the KNAC more time to collect the required 2.698 signatures for an otherwise non-binding referendum on an environmental zone for passenger cars. The discussion about environmental zones mainly shows that mobility in the Netherlands is not always considered to exceed municipal boundaries.

Logistical and economic problem
Diesel delivery vans and trucks that do not meet the Euro-3 standard are banned from the city center. The rule does not yet apply to delivery vans that run on petrol (or gas). The city council insisted that older petrol cars be allowed to drive longer in the city. For entrepreneurs who have a delivery van on diesel or a truck that does not meet the environmental standard, the measure is bad news. Not only logistics are the companies saddled with a problem. There is also additional pressure economically. To be able to deliver goods, people will have to rely on colleagues who do have clean company cars. That will undoubtedly cost money. In addition, the ability to make political decisions at a local level in the Netherlands does not make matters clearer. Because if measures are taken in their own way in every city in the future, it will also be quite a challenge for transport operators to carry out the work efficiently.


Middle class waits in tension measure private car
In the meantime, the Utrecht middle class is anxiously awaiting developments around the planned environmental zones for passenger cars. The KNAC is currently working on a signature campaign for an advisory referendum. As is known by now, the KNAC needs 2.698 signatures to allow that referendum to continue. The counter is currently on 1.000 units. If the referendum comes, it is not certain - even with a majority against environmental zones - that the municipal council will take over the result and put an end to the environmental zones for passenger cars. If these are entered, the motorist will move to another place with an older car to do the shopping.


Cross-border effect is ignored
The discussion about the Utrecht environmental zone is a good example of how local politics with regard to mobility are being practiced in the Netherlands: no consideration is given to municipal or regional boundaries. Suppliers and private motorists in the Netherlands are confronted with all sorts of municipality-different rules that are determined primarily from a local interest. A very good example of this is - to involve it in classic circles - an article in the Autovisie of 6 September 1974. In that edition there is a report about the purchase of municipal police cars, whereby each municipality could apply its own purchasing policy.


In the article concerned, author Jan Morrien especially questioned the economic side of the matter and argues that any form of national consultation on this point was still a long way off. Each municipality decided which brand to purchase and applied completely different standards for the fleet, which was replaced year after year. Example: in Haarlem they drove a DAF and in Utrecht the Peugeot 204 was again the favorite. Each municipality was also responsible for maintenance itself. Even then, central agreements on purchasing and maintenance could have resulted in significant cost savings. Incidentally, the National Police did purchase uniforms. Of course, a lot has changed since then.


Attention KNAC for Utrecht exposes the problem of local politics
The Hague must now take control and adopt a clear framework for local decision-making in the field of mobility. The Utrecht environmental zones cause confusion, because - for example - Amsterdam already has a completely different policy with regard to the older "polluting" car. It would be good for national politicians to focus on car-free inner cities, which are accessible to everyone in the transport sector. Leeuwarden and Groningen are good examples. Various parking garages have been built around the center for the private “shopper”. And that works great. Also because it gives the transport operator more room to do his job well. Without first checking his registration certificate to see if his vehicle meets European environmental standards.



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