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Brussels floats the idea of a congestion charge

Road Traffic in Brussels © European Parliament

The Brussels regional government is considering the introduction of a congestion charge applicable to all vehicles circulating within the region, and varying according to the time of day.

The idea comes as the three regions continue to fail to agree on a nationwide road tax system. Wallonia favours a simple vignette, such as used in Switzerland. Flanders prefers a road toll paid by the kilometre.

Brussels originally sided with the road toll, but behind the idea was always the ideal of a system used nationwide, charging by the kilometre and by the time of day.

But the three regions are as far apart as ever. Now Brussels has decided to go it alone by introducing a congestion charge.

The charge would be applicable to all vehicles, wherever they come from, including those of Brussels residents. The charge would vary according to the time of day, with the maximum charge applying at rush hours.

The option is still being discussed of whether to vary the charge according to the emissions of the vehicle in question. The cameras currently in place to police the low emissions zone would be able to fulfil both goals, pollution and time of day.

The level of the charge is also still open to discussion, with some supporters basing the charge on the cost of a public transport ticket – €2.10 for one journey.

Others support a variable tariff of €1 to €3, while still others point out, based on experience of similar systems in London, Milan and Stockholm, that a tariff under €3 is likely to have little or no effect on congestion. In other words, the charge would lose its dissuasive aspect it if is not expensive enough at the right time of day.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times