Brussels will start road-pricing on its territory, whether Flanders likes it or not. But the Region wants to cooperate with the other regions, reports New Mobility.
Brussels Mobility Minister, Elke Van den Brandt from the Green party, suggests a slimmed-down approach, with exemptions on routes where there is no alternative via public transport.
To ensure that there are alternatives in Brussels, the new Brussels coalition will be investing heavily in public transport in the coming years.
“Maybe Flanders should invite the MIVB/STIB to show them how it can be done,” says Van den Brandt. “The Flemish people who can’t get to the station by bus are also adding to our traffic jams. So, I sincerely hope that a joint solution can be found.”
“I hear that Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters, does not want road-pricing because people have no alternatives to the car. I consider that to be an opening,” Van den Brandt says. Let’s start gradually and modulate the system in such a way that you only pay for journeys for which there is an alternative to the car, such as train or bus.”
‘Gradual introduction sensible’
Specialists agree that Brussels alone will have difficulties introducing the scheme. It is an ultimate attempt to convince Flanders to jointly introduce a variable road-pricing ‘light’.
“We can start with small steps. In the first phase, motorists will only pay where there are the most traffic jams. If necessary, only during rush hours, and only in and around Brussels. That is the advantage of a variable charge: you can really work to measure,” says Van den Brandt.
According to Van den Brandt, road-pricing is not a tax increase: “Instead of an annual lump sum, we are moving toward an intelligent system in which the rate is determined on the basis of the number of kilometers a person travels, at what time, with which car, and on which route. At the same time, people are fiscally rewarded if they take the train.”
Last year, as part of its climate plan, the Flemish government once again decided that road-pricing should be introduced. Former Minister of Mobility, Ben Weyts, also defended it. But when a preparatory study leaked out during the election campaign, with prices ranging from 2 to 5 cents per kilometer, the plans were brushed aside.
Currently, no country has a system of road-pricing cars all over its territory. The system has already been implemented in Belgium for trucks since 2016, which drive around with an on-board unit that sends out signals to calculate the mileage charge.
“Of course it would be best to extend the system to passenger cars throughout the country,” says transport economist Bruno De Borger, “but that’s expensive”. “That is why I think it would be wise to opt for step-by-step implementation. I think it would be best to start with the cities. That’s where most of the traffic jams are in the end.”