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Environment protection zones in German cities

The Fine Dust Particles Regulation came into effect on 1st March 2007. Councils in built-up German urban areas can introduce environment protection zones to reduce fine dust particles emissions from motorised persons and goods transport vehicles.

Limited access to and identification of environment protection zones

Areas classified as environment protection zones in German towns and cities offer only limited access to motor vehicles. This limit is enforced by banning access to older vehicles which have not been allotted a coloured window sticker according to conditions laid down by regulations. These stickers are allocated on the basis of exhaust norms (EURO 1 to EURO 6) and additionally for diesel vehicles on the basis of them being fitted with particle filters.

Environment protection zone borders are marked with corresponding signs – which identify the colour of stickers for which the exclusion regulations apply.

Start of the Environment Protection Zone
End of Environment Protection Zone
Allowed Stickers

Fine dust window stickers

The German "Regulation for identifying motor vehicles with low emissions" (the 35. BimSchV – or the so-called "window sticker" regulation) regulates the identification of motor vehicles throughout Germany by means of coloured window stickers which are allocated according to a vehicle’s exhaust or harmful substance emissions grouping. Window stickers may be obtained according to a vehicle's exhaust classification from motor vehicle registration offices, technical checkpoints (Dekra, GTÜ, KÜS, TÜV) as well as from garages throughout Germany.

A vehicle’s exhaust norm is encoded in the vehicle’s documentation. The last two digits in the key number are important – these may be found in the vehicle registration booklet or in part one of the vehicle permit.

Access regulations in the various German environment protection zones from 1st January 2010 vary.

Exceptions for holiday and tour coaches

Exemptions from access restrictions are regulated differently from one environment protection zone to the other. Exemption permits are also dealt with differently. They may be applied for and sought from the local authorities.

In Baden-Württemberg, an exemption permit once issued, is recognized in all environment protection zones. The administration fee is € 53 to € 106 (valid for max. 1 year).

Regulation for foreign vehicles

Foreign vehicles also require window stickers or exemption permits in the cities concerned – with the exception of Berlin. The stickers are available from all German vehicle registration offices (Zulassungsbehörde) or from exhaust examination (Abgasuntersuchung) checkpoints. Exemption permits may also be obtained directly from cities with environment protection zones.

Effects on coach tourism

A major part of the German coach and bus branch is affected by access limitations to environment protection zones. Inconsistent bureaucratic handling of environment protection zone regulations not only has negative effects on the coach sector itself but also on local hotels, restaurants, visitor attractions, events and on the retail trade.

Holiday and tour coaches have to apply for a special permit for every coach and for every single time they enter an environment protection zone. The regulations are totally unclear and highly confusing for foreign coaches. Applications are time-consuming and expensive and not at all possible on weekends.

The risks attached to this current political situation could be a massive drop in city tourism with groups. Coach groups currently deliver significant business to hotels and restaurants, inner-city visitor attractions and to the retail trade.

Barring coaches contributes nothing towards achieving the ecological goals of the Fine Particles Regulation because climate-friendly holiday and tour coaches are only responsible for a tiny proportion of emissions. Since 1st January 2005 emissions are meant to drop below 50 microgram pro cubic metre air Europe-wide.

The RDA, in conjunction with the DTV German Tourism Federation, calls for free access to environment protection zones for coaches because of their proven environmental and climate-friendliness. The RDA’s concrete demand is that all coaches that fulfil at least the Euro-3 norm must be freed of all fine dust particles related access bans – even under the premise that up to autumn 2006 it was only possible to purchase coaches that corresponded to this particular norm.