Low Emission Zone: Amsterdam City Council had faced a problem with NO² and particulate emissions from highly polluting vehicles causing air quality standards to be outside European Union legal limits. In 2008 it went live with a new environmental zone, designed to keep the dirtiest vehicles out of the city centre. Expensive, manual enforcement was used at first but in 2009 the city went live with an automated solution using Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR).
Dutch enforcement system specialist Gatsometer, the prime contractor for the project, elected to used Q-Free’s ALPR excellence, in the form of its Intrada software solution, to identify those vehicles to which access would be denied.
Initially, the environmental zone was out of bounds to goods vehicles with Euro0 or Euro1 diesel engines (any vehicle heavier than 3,500kg is considered a goods vehicle). Goods vehicles with Euro2 or Euro3 engines would only allowed in if they had a soot filter, although in certain cases temporary exemptions were possible. These standards were further tightened as of 1 January 2010 and after July 2013 only vehicles compliant with Euro4 and above are granted access.
Prior to putting the project out to tender, the city’s engineers defined a number of functional requirements. These included that a minimum of 80 percent of license plates of passing vehicles actually be recorded and a high level of reading accuracy – a maximum deviation of no more than 0.02 per cent. Gatsometer not only submitted the most cost-effective bid but also promised a hit rate of 97 percent – a significant undertaking for a system anticipated to record up to a million vehicles per day.
The zone has had a considerable and positive effect on the emissions caused by vehicles entering the city. Before the introduction of the environmental zone around a third of all goods vehicles were estimated to be in breach of emissions rules. Less than two years after the automated enforcement system went operational, 99 percent of all vehicles entering the zone were checked, 89 percent were fully compliant, 9 percent had obtained a special permit and only 2 percent received a fine.