Groningen’s zoning towards zero emissions

28 February 2023 - Published by Deirdre Buist
The 1st February 2023 marked the official start of the expanded zoning and adapted time slots for freight delivery in Groningen, meaning that no vans or trucks are allowed into the designated inner city area between 5am – 12am. These restrictions are the next step in the City’s Zero Emission Strategy due to come into effect in 2025.

Logistics Policy Advisor for the Municipality of Groningen and SURFLOGH partner Sjouke van der Vlugt tells more: “Our transition towards more efficient and cleaner city logistics requires new policy and a change of mindset. Optimizing freight flows in the city centre is essential but we see that space is limited and congestion is a real problem at certain times of the day.  We want to create more room for cyclists and pedestrians, improve air quality and make the city more livable.“

Stimulating greener logistics

While the new rules also apply for people living in the specified zone, small electric freight vehicles and cargo bikes - considered more suitable for the size and scale of the historic city’s narrow streets - are excluded from these delivery regulations. “This latest policy includes a set of different measures and regulations that facilitate and stimulate alternative  logistics services, such as delivery via hubs,” Sjouke continues. “In turn, this ensures a stronger business case for the many pilots tested during the SURFLOGH project and enhances their viability as a future-proof solution. Moreover, there is always room for exemptions – outside the specified hours.”


Zoning in Groningen: The inner circle (pink) has been expanded (blue)


Initial reactions

Despite widespread communication beforehand, some businesses are struggling with the new supply and collection times. A few initial reactions from the street:

  • The transition is not easy, despite the fact that there is already a fair share of electric vehicles
  • Transport companies are willing, but are also confronted with long shipping delays and material shortages – that’s a reality.
  • As a citizen living in the zoned area, it takes extra planning to organize deliveries, removals and repairs. After 12am a special permit is required.
  • Some shops don’t open till 10am …that makes the supply/collect window even tighter. 

Permits, exemptions, fines

From April, cameras will record all vehicle registrations entering the city centre. Those without a permit will be fined. All types of vehicles can apply for a permit outside the set timeframe, but those that are emission-free are cheaper and can be valid for up to a year (instead of a day).  Residents and businesses can apply for twelve free permits per year.

“There’s always the possibility of a situation we haven’t anticipated for,” says Sjouke. “We’ve communicated extensively with those affected by these new regulations to ensure everyone is informed and knows how to apply for an exemption. From 1st April, cameras will record all vehicles entering the city centre and those without a permit will be fined. By the way, residents and businesses can request twelve free permits per year.


Mapping logistic traffic flows, time-bound delivery zones (green) and a car-free area (pink) in the inner city of Groningen. 

Breathing space & behavioural change

But it’s not about dealing out fines - we want to reduce congestion and CO2, and create some breathing space for the city and its residents – literally. That requires behavioural change,  and change takes time. We are confident Groningen is on track for a zero emissions city centre in 2030!”

*Top:Delivery vans without a permit are banned from the inner city after 12am.

* Photo: Peter Wassing