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Unruly drivers defy pollution ban as Paris region chokes

© Jacques Demarthon, AFP | Since Tuesday, officials in the Paris region have ordered half of all private cars off the road, alternating between registration plates ending in odd or even numbers.

Video by Luke SHRAGO , Simon HARDING

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-12-08

Paris city hall on Friday will ban half of all cars from travelling and make public transportation free for a fourth consecutive day amid record winter pollution, with other French cities expected to follow suit.

Since Tuesday, officials in the Paris region have banned half of all private cars from the roads, alternating on different days between registration plates ending in odd or even numbers.

Only people with even-numbered plates were allowed to drive Thursday in the French capital and its nearby suburbs, which have been hit by the worst levels of winter pollution in a decade.

The controversial traffic restriction wasn't respected by many drivers during the first two days, while disruption in transportation services added to confusion.

According to Airparif, the body in charge of monitoring pollution in Paris, the drop in car emissions was only 5 to 10 percent on the first day of the ban because only half as many of the vehicles respected it compared to March 2014.

Traffic jams in the morning rush hour stretched over 415 kilometres (258 miles) in and around Paris, compared with 300 normally, road traffic officials reported.

"Nobody respects it [the traffic restriction],” Francis, a motorist, told the Associated Press (AP). “I have noticed it from the very beginning and I don't think it's going to help."

Drivers face a fine of €22 to €75 ($23 to $80) if they ignore the rule.

A similar scheme will be implemented in Lyon on Friday as the pollution hit various regions across France, including the Rhone Valley.

Calls for 'more robust measures'

France's Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, who has been criticised in several newspapers for failing to take action, announced cabinet-level talks to clean up transportion on Saturday.

The surge in pollution around Paris and in other parts of France showed "that much more robust measures are indispensable", Royal told AFP.

Royal said new initiatives could include extending incentives for the purchase of electric cars. She would also propose forcing motorists to display colour-coded air-quality certificates on vehicles so that the dirtiest of them could be banned during the next pollution alert.

The current spike in pollution offered a "good opportunity", said Royal, since people would be more willing to accept constraints having been made more aware of the problem.

Posting a picture of the Eiffel Tower barely emerging from the smog, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: "#Paris today. Proof of the need to reduce the number of cars in the city centre."

Airparif says the problem is due to the accumulation of pollutants related to an anticyclone that has settled over a big part of Europe.

“It's an anticyclone with very few winds that prevent pollutants from dispersing, and furthermore we are facing an inversion of temperature,” said Amélie Fritz, Airparif’s communication officer.

“You can picture it as a lid on top of a saucepan; it is a lid of warm air, like a bell over the agglomeration that prevents the pollutants from mixing and it fixes the pollutants to the ground,” Fritz told AP.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
 

Date created : 2016-12-08

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