Every hour spent in traffic costs €11.72. According to calculations by the Minister of Employment and Consumer Affairs, Kris Peeters, increased congestion in Antwerp and Brussels led to €255 million in economic damages last year.
Belgium’s highly saturated and outdated mobility infrastructure has put a heavy financial burden on businesses and individuals. Once praised for its central geographic location and dense transport networks, (im)mobility has become an economic speed bump in Belgium.
In recent decades, traffic has increased, while the country’s infrastructure has significantly deteriorated. Years of underinvestment have left the network in a state of disrepair, as recently illustrated by the closure of the busy Hermann Debroux viaduct. Brussels and Antwerp saw an increase of 3% and 4%, respectively, in extra travel time compared to 2015, in the latest TomTom Traffic Index. With competitive pressure rising in all areas, Belgium should address these concerns to reclaim its position as the ‘logistics gateway to Europe.’
Recently, mobility has gained traction on the Belgian public policy agenda and has become a priority for the governments. Mobility is one of the five planks of Prime Minister Charles Michel’s ‘Strategic Investment Pact,’ the ambition for which he has now raised to mobilizing €60 billion by 2030. However, a truly transformative mobility policy requires a long-term and courageous vision, which is still missing today.
A new mobility vision should be inspired by technology, applying creative solutions to well-known problems, as we advocate in our 2017 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium. Cross-regional cooperation and efficient coordination will be indispensable for a smooth transformation of the whole network. The high cost and inefficiency of Belgian traffic can potentially affect foreign investment and employment, as Belgium risks squandering the strategic advantage provided by its geographic location.
It’s time to unblock the gridlock. To maximize accessibility and trade opportunities, Belgium must continuously invest in new and the maintenance of existing infrastructure, while embracing new technologies and innovation.