Lobbyists accuse the city council of overreacting

Rome has banned all diesel vehicles from its roads for the first time in an effort to combat rising pollution, with numerous other cities in central and northern Italy also imposing curbs to cut harmful emissions.

A prolonged period of sunny weather with no rain and little wind has triggered dozens of smog alerts across the country.

Rome city council banned diesel cars, vans and motorbikes during peak hours, with the worst polluting vehicles barred from the streets from dawn to dusk.

The local transport authority said the order would affect around one million vehicles, angering oil companies, who accused the city council of overreacting.

Italy has a permitted limit for fine particle pollution (PM10) of 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Some areas of Rome have exceeded that level — above which air quality is considered a potential health hazard — in 10 of the past 12 days.

Pollution levels have also risen sharply in a string of other cities, including Milan, Turin, Florence, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena, forcing local authorities there also to restrict drivers.