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Lack of co-operation among regions cause of Brussels’ traffic problems, says study
According to a new study, a lack of co-operation among Belgium’s three regions is responsible for Brussels’ mobility problems. The research was carried out for Brussels Studies by ULB geographer Mathieu Strale.
“Mobility between Brussels and its outskirts appears to be a problem which links political, social, economic, environmental and organisational issues, ”Strale writes in the report. The interweaving of these different dimensions makes it difficult to understand and deal with.”
Strale looked at how long it took on average for commuters to reach Brussels train stations from cities and towns relatively close to the capital, including the periphery. He researched both car travel and public transport options, using real-time information to calculate travel times.
He broke up commuters into four categories: the periphery, nearby cities outside the periphery that have frequent rail connections, nearby towns in Flanders that are poorly connected and nearby towns in Wallonia that are poorly connected.
Most cars from right over the border
While the periphery is the closest to the capital, poor public transport options means it sees the largest percentage of drivers. While this is a problem within the Capital-Region itself, these drivers are not the cause of congestion on roads coming into the capital, Strale said. This is because they often do not use the major arteries.
Those coming from further away do use the major arteries but often do not find the infrastructure necessary to then move them through the city. “The entrance into Brussels via the Herrmann-Debroux viaduct suffers from the lack of a direct link to the city centre, unlike the north, north-west or east entrances, via the Leopold II tunnel, the Reyers complex or the A12,” notes Strale. “This undoubtedly explains the strong impact of traffic congestion at the southern entrances to Brussels.”
Strale also found that the organisation of public transport services – with each region having its own providers, all separate from the rail authority – was a huge problem. “The organisation of the network influences the quality of service,” according to the study.
These four commuters quadrants require made-to-measure solutions, the study found. While people living in the periphery would greatly benefit from a more cohesive public transport policy, the cities with rail services – like Aalst, Mechelen, Nijvel and Tienen – require more frequent trains. Those living in areas with fewer train stations need additional parking at the train stations that they do have, as well as direct bus links with stations in the capital.
There are “significant disparities,” says Strale, between areas well connected by road or public transport and more rural areas but also the immediate outskirts, “where public transport is not very efficient. This weak political integration at metropolitan level poses the risk of competitive regulation between territories, which is socially unfair, economically inefficient and costly.”
Finally, Strale fears that ambitious mobility projects will not solve any problems unless commuting patterns in the country are seen as a whole. “The regional and national authorities are planning and carrying out various mobility projects in the Brussels metropolitan area. However, in the absence of an integrated vision, these remain difficult to achieve and may not necessarily meet the challenges, or may even compete with each other.”
Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA