UPDATED: A combination of cold, still winter weather and poor air quality prompted Oslo city officials to enforce a ban on diesel-driven vehicles in the Norwegian capital for the first time ever. Those caught driving a diesel vehicle on city-owned streets face a fine of NOK 1,500 (USD 176).
The diesel ban was initially put into effect from 6am until 10pm on Tuesday and was likely to be extended, probably through Thursday. Police and city officials set up control posts in various areas around Oslo on Tuesday morning and stopped several motorists driving diesel cars. Most seemed to be escaping fines, though, with a warning that they wouldn’t be so “lucky” on Wednesday.
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Among them was Wilhelm Simonsen, who was stopped outside the main gate of the Frogner Park on Kirkeveien Tuesday morning. He was spared the NOK 1,500 fine but told to park his car at the next opportunity. Simonsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he would probably walk to work on Wednesday.
‘Find alternative modes of travel’
“I hope the ban won’t last long and will encourage people to find alternative modes of travel,” Lan Marie Berg, the top city politician from the Greens Party in charge of environmental and transport issues, told newspaper Aftenposten. Those alternatives, she suggested, include using public transportation, bicyling, car-pooling with those who don’t drive diesel cars or working from home, if possible.
Since the ban only applies to city streets and thoroughfares, it won’t apply to traffic on the state-owned and operated highways such as the E6, the E18, RV4 Trondheimsveien, RV163 Østre Aker vei or RV190 Strømsveien. It will also be allowed to drive diesel vehicles to and from the Oslo Central Station (OsloS), and the ferry terminals at Vippetangen for DFDS and Stena Line and at Hjortneskaia for Color Line.
Diesel-driven vehicles, claimed to pollute more than those fueled by unleaded gasoline, won’t be allowed elsewhere, however, and police are expected to enforce the ban. Reaction was mixed.
Some public understanding
“I can understand the ban,” Lise Marte Wolf, age 30, told Aftenposten. She was questioned while filling her car with diesel at a petrol station at Aleksander Kiellands Plass in Oslo on Sunday, but said she can use public transport. Even Simonsen, the young man stopped Tuesday morning, told NRK that “it’s good for the environment, but not good for those of us who have diesel cars.”
Others were not so understanding: “It will be very difficult for me to be without my car,” said Robert Jensen, also age 30. He drives back and forth to work and lacks efficient public transport from his home at Torshov in Oslo to Sessmovollen. He said his commute time would probably double, from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.
City authorities were also urging commuters to allow plenty of time to get back and forth to work on Tuesday, because trains, trams, the metro and buses were likely to be packed. Ruter, which runs the public transport system, hoped many commuters would try to travel outside peak rush periods, or also try to work from home.