Pollution in cities is a serious problem for the health of citizens. However, measures aimed at combating it are often sources of problems. We have the sample in the restrictions of Madrid Central, widely contested by society and which have been modified on several occasions.
Air quality has always been a problem in large cities, where the presence of the classic “pollution beret” in the sky is common. The main source of this pollution has to do with the intensive use of private vehicles in these urban areas. A problem that increases in areas like Madrid, due to its size and the traffic it supports.
To solve this problem, the Madrid City Council created the Madrid Central area. This low emission zone was designed by the team of the then mayor Manuela Carmena and was inaugurated in November 2018. Its objective was to establish a restricted traffic zone with limited access criteria, which prohibited access to this sector to the most polluting vehicles. However, from that date to the present day, and surely in the future, we will see how this area continues to be surrounded by controversy and how vehicle restrictions are modified in Central Madrid, as well as in the rest of the city.
If you are not sure how to obtain access to Madrid Central or which areas it affects, let’s see some data in this regard, although always subject to the modifications that may be established later. So if you are not used to going through this part of the city, we recommend you check the information signs in use, as well as the official information that the Madrid City Council publishes online.
What is Central Madrid
Madrid Central is a project proposed to develop a low emission zone in the center of the city of Madrid, as is obvious. It mainly affects the urban center, where polluting emissions are very high and the reduction of which would benefit not only the affected area, but also the surrounding areas.
Madrid Central’s approach replaced the four existing residential priority areas in the area, established to limit traffic in the center, with a large area of controlled access and low emissions.
The extension of Madrid Central covers an area of 472 hectares , which is limited by Alberto Aguilera street to Plaza de Colón to the north, Princesa street and Ronda de Segovia to the west, Rondas de Toledo and Segovia and Calle de Atocha to the south and Paseos del Prado and Recoletos to the east. Within this area there are emblematic streets of the city, such as Gran Vía, Calle Mayor or Puerta del Sol.
Cameras are placed on all the streets that serve as borders for the area, which control the access of vehicles and verify that they correspond to the limitations established by the standard, which we will comment on below. They are also the ones that generate the basis for sanctioning vehicles that access the area without being authorized to pass.
How can you circulate around Madrid Central
The key point that determines who can access this area is the vehicle’s energy label . Therefore, there is no permit for Madrid Central or similar, but it is this label that makes the difference. So there is no specific environmental label in Madrid Central for that area. Let us remember that the category of the label mainly influences the engine of the vehicle and some aspects such as the tires or the number of seats in the car have no weight.
This label is mandatory for all cars entering this part of the city. The only exception to wearing said label is made up of residents registered in the area , who can circulate through it regardless of the label on their vehicle or even if it has one or not. Therefore, if you are wondering where you can circulate in Madrid without a label, it is obvious that Madrid Central is not included, unless you are a resident.
Summarizing the regulations very much, we can say that vehicles that have a zero label or ECO label have full mobility in the Madrid Central area, regardless of whether they are resident, non-resident or guest vehicles. Regarding the vehicles with label B and C, these can access the area in case they belong to residents or guests. However, non-residents cannot access it, except if they go to a car park or garage located within it. In the case of motorcycles with these categories, B and C, access is allowed but only from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Those who bear the brunt of these restrictions are vehicles without an energy label, which are not authorized in Madrid Central, except for those belonging to residents, as we have mentioned. However, these users also have a problem, since these vehicles must be replaced by more efficient ones before the year 2025, when the moratorium established by law to make such a change ends. From that date, no vehicle without a label will be able to access Madrid Central.
By the way, although it may seem strange, for now the cars that will not be able to circulate in Madrid outside this zone have not been established, given that the restrictions that we have mentioned only apply to the low-emission zone of Madrid Central or Madrid 360. It is true that restrictions can be established in the rest of the city, but these are not fixed and are related to specific episodes of high pollution .
Exceptions and complements to the norm
Until now we have talked about private vehicles, but the limitations that we have discussed are also established for other vehicles. For example, those for companies, professionals and delivery with label 0 or ECO will have free access, while those with label C can only access from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and those with label B only from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Commercial vehicles that do not have a label are prohibited from accessing this area.
The other large group of vehicles with authorization in Madrid Central, with free access to the restricted area, would be those intended for public services . This includes emergency vehicles, public, discretionary and tourism buses, government contractor vehicles, such as those for cleaning, road maintenance or green areas, as well as driving school cars, tow trucks, funeral vehicles and the like. They can access and move around this area without problems, as long as they are performing their usual functions.