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BERLIN, May 30, 2018 (AFP) -- Hamburg will on Thursday become the first German city to ban older diesel vehicles from some highly polluted roads as public confidence in the once-loved technology goes up in smoke.

A 1,600-metre (one mile) stretch of highway and a 580-metre section of another major road will be closed to older diesels.

The port city is the first to act on a court ruling that such bans were a legitimate way for local authorities to reduce air pollution below European Union health thresholds.

Judges at the Federal Administrative Court found in February that cities could "gradually" eliminate diesel vehicles, starting with the oldest, while allowing exceptions including for emergency services, local residents and businesses.

"Germany has to do something" to improve air quality, said 37-year-old Sabine, who works on the Max-Brauer Allee, one of the roads hit by the ban.

"We should abolish diesels," she added.

The cities of Stuttgart in the south and Kiel in the north are mulling their own diesel restrictions in the battle against air pollution, while Munich, Cologne and Duesseldorf are closely monitoring the Hamburg experiment.

Diesel was long seen by Germans as a proudly homegrown technology that could help battle climate change, with lower emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) than petrol motors.

Patented by Bavarian engineer Rudolf Diesel in 1892, the fuel is subsidised to this day in a number of European countries.

But its reputation has lain in tatters since Volkswagen's "dieselgate" scandal broke in 2015.


The mammoth carmaker admitted to fitting millions of cars worldwide with "defeat devices" -- software designed to trick regulators into thinking cars met emissions standards.

In fact, output of harmful fine particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which can cause respiratory and heart diseases, was far higher than legally permitted.

Diesel's share of new car sales plunged from 47.7 percent in 2015 to 38.7 percent last year.

Nevertheless, Germany's federal government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has often appeared to take the car industry's side.

It has pushed back against diesel bans and rejects the idea of a "blue badge" drivers could stick on their windscreens that would identify the least polluting vehicles.

Instead, Berlin has offered longer-term measures like a cash pot to extend public transport and build up cities' electric vehicle fleets.

That makes measures like those in Hamburg "just lip service from the politicians... I don't think it will actually affect anything" said Felix Fischer, 49, who works in a bicycle shop on the Stresemannstrasse highway -- the other stretch to be closed to diesels.

Some media have dubbed leader Merkel the "Autokanzlerin" or car chancellor, playing on her concern to protect a critical sector for the German economy.

With some 600,000 jobs dependent on the internal combustion engine according to estimates from the Ifo economic institute in Munich, the chancellor's centre-left coalition partners are just as concerned as Merkel's conservatives to keep the technology alive.

Many such jobs would not be replaced if the industry switches to less mechanically complex electric power en masse.

Consulting firm SMP found firms can produce around 350 combustion engines per worker per year, a figure that rises to 1,600 for electric drivetrains.

Diesel is "a German child that we'd rather not allow to die", said Stefan Bratzel of the Centre of Automotive Management.

Bosch, the world's biggest auto components supplier, trumpeted in April new technologies it claimed could "drastically" reduce diesel emissions and "put a stop, once and for all, to the debate about the demise of diesel technology".

But the long-term effect of government and business prevarications could actually be to undermine the German car industry, argued Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the Centre for Automotive Research.

"The longer you wait, the harder it will be to make the transition to electric," he warned.

BERLIN, May 13, 2018 (News Wires) - Former European champions Hamburg SV were relegated for the first time Saturday, with their fans throwing flares onto the pitch as their team's record uninterrupted top-flight run since the Bundesliga began in 1963 came to a controversial end.

VfL Wolfsburg's 4-1 win over bottom club Cologne meant Hamburg's 2-1 home victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach, which was interrupted for 15 minutes due to the crowd trouble in stoppage time, was rendered meaningless.

Hamburg will join Cologne in the second division next season, while Wolfsburg go into a relegation playoff.

Dozens of riot police, several on horses, charged onto the pitch and lined up in front of the Hamburg fans, who lit several flares and threw them behind the Gladbach goal when it became clear that the team was on its way to the second division.

Hamburg were leading 2-1 in stoppage time when referee Felix Brych stopped the game.

The fires were put out and police gradually left the field so the game could resume and the final seconds be played out.

Hamburg had taken an early lead through Aaron Hunt and went in front again with a Lewis Holtby goal just past the hour after Gladbach had levelled the score before halftime.

 

BERLIN, March 11, 2018 (AFP) - Robert Lewandowski grabbed a hat-trick as Bayern Munich romped to a 6-0 victory over crisis-stricken Hamburg in the Bundesliga Saturday.
The victory keeps Bayern on course to wrap up another Bundesliga title - their sixth in a row - before the end of March, and heaps misery on Hamburg, who are now without a win in 13 games.
"We played very well today. The performance and result were very important for us," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, whose side go to Besiktas for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in midweek, leading 5-0 from the first leg.
With eight games left, Bayern are a huge 20 points clear of second-placed Schalke, who won 1-0 at Mainz on Friday.
"It doesn't matter if we are 10, 15 or 20 points ahead, we need to keep going in the Bundesliga," said Arjen Robben. "We can't just focus on the Champions League."
Bayern have made a habit of recording big home wins over Hamburg at the Allianz Arena in recent years and it took them less than eight minutes to take the lead this time.
Franck Ribery broke away on the left before rounding goalkeeper Christian Mathenia to slot in the opener.
Just four minutes later, Lewandowski headed in a Joshua Kimmich cross to double the lead for Bayern. The Polish international struck again in the 19th minute, after a pinpoint long ball from Jerome Boateng had opened up the Hamburg defence.
Robben fired in Bayern's fourth on 55 minutes, and Ribery made it five with a mazy solo run in the 80th minute.
Lewandowski blasted one penalty over the bar on 85 minutes, before converting a second spot-kick at the death to complete his hat-trick.
His latest exploits in front of goal mean he has now scored 100 Bundesliga goals for Bayern and is the club's all-time leading foreign goal-scorer with 142 from 182 games in all competitions.
He overtakes the Brazilian Giovane Elber, who played for the club from 1997 to 2003.