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Belgian national mobility pact: ‘adopt a true mobility policy’

In Belgium several NGO’s have launched the national mobility pact. They ask the next government to focus on rail transport as the backbone of tomorrow’s transport model and adopt a true mobility policy in favour of a modal shift from road to rail.

The pact was launched on Friday 3 May by Greenpeace, Trein Tram Bus, Bond Beter Leefmilieu and Inter-Environnement Wallonië. It was endorsed by the Belgian Rail Freight Forum, which represents the rail freight sector of the country. “Transport volumes are expected to grow 30 per cent by 2030, which makes our reliance on road transport increasingly unsustainable. Our government needs to stimulate an intelligent transport mix with rail as its backbone. The Belgian rail freight operators are committed to doubling rail volumes by 2030”, said Paul Hegge.

What should be done?

The call for a national mobility pact demands our government to impose a new mission on infrastructure manager Infrabel, the Rail Freight Forum believes. “This mission should focus on maximising the number of passengers and volumes of goods transported on its network by making sure – as far as cargo is concerned – that driving a train is as easy as driving a truck. It promotes a better alignment of the national rail networks into one harmonised European network and requires a reduction of the rail path costs.”

On top of that, the Belgian Rail Freight Forum asks the government to reward transport companies that choose sustainable transport modes such as rail. It has been proven that rail is competitive, but the handling to and from rail makes it more expensive. If the government would partially reimburse companies for the handling costs, this would be an important step in shifting goods from road to rail, the group believes.

It can be done

The next government does not need to make huge investments to achieve the ambitions, the group believes. “The rail infrastructure is already there,” said Paul Hegge. “It is a matter of correct allocation and efficient use of the resources available. It can be done. And it can be done relatively quickly, cheaply and to everyone’s benefit.”

The Belgian Rail Freight Forum made their pledge to the government in a memorandum, which they delivered on 20 February. The memorandum was presented as part of the Rail Freight Forward coalition, a commitment of European rail freight companies to reduce the negative impact of freight transport on the planet. The key objective is an increase in the rail share from 18 per cent to 30 per cent in Europe. In Belgium, this should be increased from 10 per cent to 16 per cent, according to the sector representatives.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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