Road charging get thumbs down

The Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts (Flemish nationalist) says there is no broad support for road charging in northern Belgium.  Mr Weyts claims there is no political majority for the measure and it hasn't got the backing of the population either.

Under a road charging system drivers have to pay a charge for the kilometres they cover.  Last year Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever sounded a different view indicating that road charging on roads around Brussels and Antwerp would become inevitable. Mr Weyts too long supported the idea of replacing car tax by road charging.  Ahead of the 26 May elections Mr Weyts has now said there's no broad support for the measure.

The mobility minister told VRT that road charging could form part of the solution for congestion: "If foreigners are made to pay too, as long as it's not a tax hike, but today I see no support for the idea. People have been scared.  They are worried they will have to pay thousands of euros extra."

Mr Weyts denies his decision has anything to do with a recent campaign by the far right Vlaams Belang party that labelled the tax the "Ben Tax".  Traffic experts believe road charging is an ideal instrument to steer traffic and cut congestion. Mobility minister Weyts says doing nothing about congestion isn’t an option: "During this parliament we invested ten billion.  You see it makes a difference with regard to congestion.  We now have to make a quantum leap and invest a further 15 billion."

Mr Weyts has plans to tackle congestion on the Brussels orbital ring as well as in Antwerp.