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The Clean Transport Zone and the transport industry in Poland

In recent years, we have been observing the development of initiatives aimed at protecting the environment and reducing emissions of harmful gases into the atmosphere. The Clean Transport Zone is a controversial issue, the main goal of which is to improve air quality in large urban agglomerations. The first such solutions in Poland will come into force in 2024. What does this mean for city residents and the transport industry? Read on to find out more.

What is a clean transport zone?

Clean Transport Zones (CTZs) are designated areas in city centres to which only vehicles that meet certain strict exhaust emission standards have access. The aim of these zones is to create cleaner, healthier urban spaces that better meet today’s environmental standards. The primary goal of CTZs is to improve air quality by limiting access for the most polluting vehicles. It is also a way to promote new technologies and encourage residents and companies to invest in more eco-friendly means of transport. 

The introduction of CTZs is associated with a number of legal and technical regulations that are aimed not only at ensuring better air quality, but also at increasing society’s awareness of what is environmentally friendly. Only vehicles that meet the appropriate criteria are allowed to enter the CTZ.

What cars can enter the clean transport zone?

  • Electric cars: vehicles powered solely by electricity, with no exhaust emissions.
  • Hydrogen cars: vehicles that use hydrogen as an energy source, emitting only water. 
  • Natural gas cars: vehicles that use natural gas (CNG), which emit less harmful substances than traditional combustion engines. 
  • Vehicles authorized on the basis of a resolution of the Municipal Council: depending on local regulations, some internal combustion cars may be allowed to enter the zone, provided that they meet certain exhaust emission standards.

Exceptions to the entry ban

Certain exceptions have been provided for, thanks to which the Clean Transport Zone will also be available to select groups of people whose vehicles do not meet the requirements. These are:

  • Vehicles used by disabled people.
  • Car owners who are at least 70 years old.
  • Vehicles of road authorities and entities carrying out tasks for road authorities.
  • Vehicles of uniformed services and rescue services.
  • Special vehicles such as excavators and food trucks.
  • School buses and zero-emission buses.

Clean Transport Zones in Polish cities – when and where?

Despite major protests from city residents, the concept of Clean Transport Zones is starting to take shape. The municipalities of Warsaw and Kraków are the first in Poland to implement it. Warsaw, as the capital of our country, is to serve as an example for other cities to introduce eco-friendly solutions. Kraków, in turn, has been struggling with the problem of smog and low air quality for years, and the Clean Transport Zone is intended to be the first significant step towards improving this situation.

Krakow as the national leader

In November 2022, Krakow councillors adopted a resolution based on which the Clean Transport Zone will apply throughout the city from July 1, 2024. A specific plan was also presented to tighten the emission requirements for harmful substances, based on which, from July 1, 2026, only petrol cars compliant with the Euro 3 standard and diesel cars compliant with the Euro 5 standard will be allowed to enter Krakow. The restrictions imposed by the Krakow authorities are less stringent than those planned in the capital. However, the clean transport zone will apply to the entire city.

The Clean Transport Zone in Warsaw

The proposed implementation date of the CTZ in Warsaw is July 2024, which the Warsaw Council voted for on December 7, 2023. The draft resolutions were changed several times due to clear objections from Warsaw residents. Ultimately, the restrictions will be less stringent, and the last stage of implementation is scheduled for 2032. In the first stage, the Clean Transport Zone will apply to approximately 4% of cars and will cover parts of the city’s central districts. Moreover, people living and paying taxes in Warsaw will be exempt from CTZ requirements until 2028. The purpose of the four-year transition period is to enable residents to adapt to the introduced changes, i.e. to purchase a newer car.

The next cities in line to introduce Clean Transport Zones will be Katowice, Poznań and Wrocław. The date of their implementation will depend on the results of public consultations and analyses of local conditions. The first decisions and draft resolutions on this matter are expected to be released in mid-2024.

The impact of CTZs on the transportation industry

The introduction of Clean Transport Zones in Poland will have a significant impact on the transport industry. This new trend in urban traffic management will not only affect the way residents move around cities, but also radically change the rules of the game for transport companies.

Fleet modernization

In order to continue transport in CTZ areas, transport companies will have to invest in new, eco-friendly trucks. This is a big financial and logistical challenge. Therefore, many companies will wait until the last minute to purchase new vehicles, hoping to purchase vehicles with the greatest possible range.

Changes in logistics

The Clean Transport Zone forces transport companies to rethink and adapt their logistics strategies, especially when it comes to urban deliveries and distribution. Companies may have to reorganize delivery routes and schedules, which might impact the costs of doing business. In extreme cases, transport may take place to a point outside the designated zone and then be reloaded to more eco-friendly vehicles.

Expectations vs. Reality

The concepts behind Clean Transport Zones seem to be sensible. However, in reality they force residents and companies to buy new cars, which is a big financial challenge. Moreover, Poland still lacks appropriate infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles. The safety of electric vehicles and the subsequent disposal of batteries also raise serious concerns.

Summary: are clean transport zones a good idea?

CTZs provide a systematic way to improve air quality in large cities. This solution is necessary due to the lack of better alternatives. At the same time, the creation of such zones constitutes a big challenge for residents and enterprises. The assumption behind the implementation of CTZs is that there will be very intense development of electric and hydrogen vehicles, putting aside the risks and obstacles related to their use. The changes will be introduced in stages, so the transport industry still has some time to prepare properly.


What exactly is a Clean Transport Zone (CTZ)?

CTZs are designated areas in city centres to which only vehicles that meet strict exhaust emission standards have access, i.e. mainly electric, hydrogen and natural gas vehicles.

When will Clean Transport Zones be introduced in Poland?

The first zones are planned from July 2024, starting in cities such as Warsaw and Kraków, with the prospect of expanding to other large cities.

What are the benefits of introducing the CTZ?

The main benefits are significant improvements in air quality, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the promotion of clean modes of transport, all of which will contribute to a healthier urban environment.