Brussels looking into possibility of congestion charge

Cities that have already introduced a congestion charge are London, Oslo, Stockholm and Milan, with reduced congestion, increased safety and better public transport as a result. The Brussels Region commissioned a study, carried out by Rapp Trans NL, Stratec and Carte Blanche, to investigate whether the introduction of such a congestion charge would have similar effects on Brussels' mobility.

The study has looked into three scenarios to reduce car traffic in the city, of which a charge of 3 € per day turns out to be the most efficient scenario. Higher amounts, such as 6 or 12 €, would have a smaller effect per euro charged. A charge of 3 € per day would decrease car traffic with 11 %. This decrease would mainly come from Flemish commuters travelling to Brussels. The congestion charge would take away pressure on the entire ring road. The study assumes that commuters would not drive up to Brussels' borders and then change modes, but rather take public transport as close to home as possible. The absolute numbers of kms and CO2 emissions avoided would even be higher in Flanders than in Brussels.

The revenue generated by such a congestion charge is estimated at 450 million € per year. As in London, revenues would entirely go to investments in public transport. Unlike Londoners, Brussels residents would also have to pay the full amount. With 60 percent of traffic in Brussels caused by people living there, the impact of the charge would otherwise be too limited.

By 2018, Brussels would like to reduce the pressure from car traffic on the city with one fifth. "Today, one of three trips is made by car. This is half of the national average, but still too much", says Brussels Secretary of State for Mobility Bruno De Lille. "Brussels is growing. By 2025, the region will have 1.3 million inhabitants. Without any change in travel behaviour, an additional 60.000 parking spaces would be required, which is impossible".

De Lille admits that a fixed amount per day, regardless of the number of kms travelled, may not be ideal to influence driving behaviour. A km charge would be more suitable in that respect, but such systems are much more expensive and complicated. With the investment being smaller, and results comparable but quicker, De Lille therefore feels a congestion charge is the most feasible option.

There is no consensus yet on the introduction of the congestion charge in the Brussels government. In September, a three month trial project organised by the three Belgian regions will kick off, to test a km charge for passenger cars in the wider Brussels region. A km charge for trucks is also on its way.

Parallel to the discussions on the km charge, the discussion on the introduction of a national (digital) vignette remains unconcluded. The vignette would be introduced for person cars in addition to the national km charge for heavy goods vehicles that is planned to start from 2016 onwards. The vignette is said to be too costful to introduce and would not generate the revenue that was expected. The traffic management potential of vignettes is minimal.


Source: De Morgen, 12 July 2013