Netherlands to cut speed limit to reduce emissions

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Dutch motorway in Amsterdam
The current motorway speed limit is 130km/h although a lower limit can apply at various times and places

The daytime speed limit on Dutch roads is to be cut to 100km/h (62mph) in a bid to tackle a nitrogen oxide pollution crisis, according to cabinet sources widely quoted by Dutch media.

Details of the leaked measures are to be revealed on Wednesday, but reports say the existing limit of up to 130km/h would still be permitted at night.

The new limit is set to come in during 2020, public broadcaster NOS reports.

Ministers have been grappling with ways of responding to the emissions problem.

Why are they acting?

The crisis is so severe that big infrastructure projects have been put on hold. A ruling in May by the top court in the Netherlands on nitrogen oxide emissions affected thousands of plans for roads, housing and airports.

The Council of State said Dutch rules for granting building and farming permits breached EU law protecting nature from emissions such as ammonia and nitrous oxide.

The government wants to build 75,000 homes next year, so for the past week the cabinet has tried to find a solution to cutting the pollutants. Among the options discussed was a ban on vehicles on Sunday.

Media captionNitrogen dioxide air pollution 5-10 January (sequence is played twice)

Under the proposals to be detailed on Wednesday, drivers would be allowed to revert to the current maximum between 19:00 and 06:00.

Even with the lower 100km/h speed limit there could still be emissions problems in areas such as the congested Randstad central-west belt, home to the biggest Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

“I’m happy we managed to work it out together in a decent way,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters, describing the measures as a “short-term package”.

Bringing the motorway speed limit down to 100km/h would make the Netherlands the lowest in Europe, on a par with Cyprus which has far fewer motorways.

Maximum road speed limits (km/h)

Netherlands’ proposed new speed

The most common maximum speed limit in Europe is 130km/h while in the UK it is 70mph (112 km/h).

Why farmers will be affected too

Last month, farmers reacted angrily to claims that intensive farming was partly to blame for the emissions problem, after a report called for drastic measures to reduce livestock as well as action on the roads.

Media captionDutch farmers clogged up more than 1,000km of roads with their tractors

Tractors caused the worst ever morning rush hour in the country as farmers argued they were being victimised.

One of the measures set to be announced on Wednesday is a plan to change livestock feed to include an enzyme that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions from cows.

Farmers are also set to be affected by plans next month to cut emissions in protected areas of the country that are part of a European network known as Natura 2000.

A project to bring the Formula 1 Grand Prix back to Zandvoort next year was criticised by some environmentalists, who raised concerns about emissions from the race as well as from work to extend the circuit.

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