Paris calls off car curbs after pollution eases

Marion Dakers
A BAN on half of the cars in Paris has been lifted after just one day after pollution levels fell back below those in Beijing.

Motorists with even-numbered licence plates were ordered off the roads in the French capital yesterday, though nearly 4,000 drivers were fined €22 each for breaching the limit imposed to try and alleviate the smog.

Seven hundred police officers were on the roads to catch cars flouting the rules yesterday, resulting in an estimated 60 per cent drop in rush-hour congestion around the Ile de France region.

Policemen at the checkpoints said drivers were taking the curb well, though Reuters reported that 27 people had their cars impounded because of their reaction to the fine.

Public transport was offered free to Parisians over the weekend, at a cost of €4m per day, in an effort to reduce smog levels.

Milder weather and a change in wind direction also helped lift the pollution enough for the authorities to call off a scheduled ban on odd-numbered plates today.

Paris last imposed restrictions on drivers in 1997 – a ban that also lasted for just one day.

“This is a public health problem ... we thank everyone who fell into line,” transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said yesterday.

Last Friday, air quality in Paris was briefly measured to be worse than many of the most polluted cities in the world including Beijing.

By last night, Paris’s air quality index score was 67, compared to 70 in Beijing and 169 in Shanghai. Central London’s score was 85, denoting moderate pollution.

The UK is facing fines of up to £300m for falling short of EU pollution limits.

“The French are right to get tough on air pollution – it’s time we did the same in this country too,” said Friends of the Earth London campaigner Jenny Bates in a statement yesterday.