Frankfurt facing toughest ban yet on diesel cars after court order, affecting 60,000 vehicles in city alone

More than 60,000 cars are set to be banned from the streets of Frankfurt next year in Germany’s toughest diesel ban yet.

The German financial capital has been ordered to prohibit all but the newest diesel vehicles from its streets despite opposition from the city authorities, following a court ruling this week.

More than two-thirds of the Frankfurt’s buses will be affected by the ban, and the city has appealed to Angela Merkel’s government for financial help to deal with the consequences.

The ban comes as Germany struggles to bring air pollution in its cities under European Union limits. 

But in the wake of the Dieselgate emissions scandal motoring organisations have accused the courts of making car owners pay for the misdeeds of the German automotive industry.

Frankfurt will be the third German city to introduce a ban. Hamburg prohibited older diesel cars from two major roads earlier this year, and Stuttgart is set to implement a city-wide ban in January.

But the Frankfurt restrictions will be the most comprehensive yet. From February next year, diesel vehicles which do not conform to EU emissions standards introduced in 2009 will be barred from entering almost the entire city. Only the airport and a few other areas outside the motorway ring road will not be affected.

From September next year the restrictions will become even tougher, and apply to diesel vehicles which do not meet the latest EU emissions standards set in 2014 — which are not currently covered by the Stuttgart ban.

That means the Frankfurt restrictions will apply to vehicles which are only a few years old, and has left motorists fearing the value of their cars could fall by thousands of euros. 

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“We have to understand that this is something that is endangering all of our health,” Judge Rolf Hartmann said as he ordered the ban this week. “Other measures taken by the state have not led to an effective reduction of nitrogen dioxide emissions.”

Frankfurt is the latest German city to be forced to order diesel cars off the roads following a series of lawsuits brought by environmentalists.

“The court has cleared the way for clean air,”  Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the German environmental group which has led the campaign, said in a statement welcoming the ruling.

But it has been met with dismay by the Frankfurt authorities. “Citizens are being asked to pay for the failures not only of the car industry, but also of the federal government,” Klaus Oesterling, the head of the city council’s traffic department said.

Mrs Merkel’s government has been accused of trying to protect German carmakers at the expense of motorists. Andreas Scheuer, the transport minister, has opposed calls to force carmakers to pay to retrofit cars affected by the Dieselgate emissions rigging scandal.

"We consider driving bans with consequences this serious hard to justify,” Mathias Müller, the head of the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said. “It is a heavy burden on businesses in the city and for their 470,000 employees.”

“This ban hits people who can’t say ‘No problem, I’ll buy a new car’,” a spokesman for ADAC, Germany’s largest motoring organisation, said. “Car owners can’t be asked to carry the burden alone. If the automotive industry had stuck to the rules, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.”