N-VA is getting cold feet about road-pricing
Flanders biggest political party, N-VA, is changing its views on smart road-pricing. Although its own Minister of Mobility, Ben Weyts (N-VA), is (was?) a big promoter, the party is now hesitating. Lately the system has been framed as a new tax increase.
“This is an explosive topic inside the party”, say insiders. “Our voters don’t like this.” The sign for the official change in point of view has been given by party leader, Bart De Wever, this weekend. “If I look at the most recent study, this will be a tax increase. In that case we’re not in.”
Still it was Flemish Minister of Mobility, Ben Weyts, who was the biggest advocate of such a system. He ordered a large-scale study and pushed a decision through the Flemish government that smart road-pricing has to be installed within the next five years.
Nevertheless, Weyts sees no contradictions in the declarations of his party president. “We’ve always said that the system can’t be a tax increase, it has to be a tax shift”, his cabinet says. “The study looks at all possibilities and will be ready for discussion at the end of June.”
For the moment all political parties are positive about road-pricing, except for the extremer parties at the right or left, Vlaams Belang and PVDA. But experts have their doubts whether it’s only a tax shift.
According to leaked documents, the toll would be 2 to 5 euro cent per kilometre. “Nobody will leave his car at home with such toll figures”, says traffic expert Willy Miermans (Hasselt University). “To influence behaviour people have to feel it.”
According to Miermans, the road toll would cost the average car user 2 euro a day, between 300 and 750 euro per year. “If the government is at the same time abolishing the fixed car taxes the bill won’t be higher and there will be no change in behaviour.”
“To make it work, you have to invest in infrastructure and public transport”, concludes Miermans.
It’s also still not decided how it will work. Toll boots all over the country are too expensive, GPS tracking via cell phone is preferred or a special in-car device might be a solution. This device, however, will probably cause privacy problems. If it’s rolled out, the system won’t be operational before 2024.