Belgium has been confronted with major congestion problems for decades and things are not improving, on the contrary. The smallest incident, accident or road works are enough to cause long traffic jams. This comes on top of the everyday jams as there are simply too many cars and trucks on Flemish roads.
"If we want to tackle the tailbacks on Flemish roads, we should try to apply all instruments", Weyts explains. "We are investing in road infrastructure, but concrete alone will not do the trick. We are also working on a more efficient and comfortable public transport system, but eventually we will have to steer mobility in general."
"If France and Switzerland do it, why shouldn't we?"
The instrument for this is a pay-as-you-drive system, which makes motorists pay for every kilometre they drive. Rates would depend on the place and the time of day. Driving outside rush hour for example would be cheaper. But the main principle is that the polluter pays. "Owning a car is no burden for our roads and for the economy. Taking your car is, as it triggers pollution and traffic jams. Those driving less, should pay less tax", says Weyts.
"We should just go ahead with the idea. We find it normal that we pay a road tax in France or Switzerland when we use their roads. Why not introduce the same principle in Flanders? We are the transit country par excellence."
No tax in the port of Antwerp?
Ben Weyts realises that this can't just be organised in the short run. More studies into the matter have to be done. Wallonia is against and Brussels hesitates.
The minister hopes that the congestion tax for lorries, which will apply from April next year, will boost the debate for normal cars.
Rates should not be too elevated and exceptions could be made for locations that play a key role in our economy, such as the port of Antwerp. Part of the revenues should go back to the Flemish economy. Weyts is currently seeking broader support to get on with his plans.