ENVIRONMENT

Major delays in Madrid as measures to combat pollution put into place

Traffic limited to 70km/h on ring roads, causing tailbacks in key areas

Electronic road signs encourage drivers to leave their cars at home.(atlas)

Madrid awoke on Thursday to traffic restrictions imposed by the City Council in a bid to try and reduce the high levels of pollution that have plagued the Spanish capital in recent days.

The measures have been taken after 11 measuring stations of the 24 in the city revealed nitrogen dioxide levels of above the limit of 200 micrograms per square meter. Nitrogen oxides can cause respiratory irritation and provoke asthma attacks.

If the high levels of pollution continue, non-residents will not be allowed to use parking meters in the city center

Entrance roads into the center are, as a result, suffering long delays, according to a municipal spokesperson, although for now the same volume of traffic is being registered as a normal Thursday.

The breakdown of a vehicle in the southwest of the M-30 ringroad has also added to the delays, in particular the access to the freeways to Extremadura (A-5), Toledo (A-42) and Andalusia (A-4).

The council has imposed speed restrictions of 70km/h (down from 90km/h) in overground sections of the M-30, and on other ring roads. If the high levels of pollution continue today and tomorrow, the next measure to be imposed will be a ban on non-residents from using parking meter spaces in the city center.

The City Council is yet to supply figures for the number of vehicles that entered the capital city this morning. It says it is hoping to have them soon, with a view to comparing whether Madrileños left their cars at home due to a campaign yesterday via electronic signs encouraging people to take public transport. Up until now, say municipal sources, the traffic levels are “the usual” for a Thursday.

The traffic-calming measures were introduced by former Popular Party Mayor Ana Botella in March of this year. However, this is the first time that they have been put into effect, with the City Council now under the control of leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena, of the Ahora Madrid bloc. One of the campaign promises of the group was to deal with the high pollution levels in Madrid.

English version by Simon Hunter.