Integrato: citizen’s plan for Belgium’s mobility of tomorrow
A group of expert-citizens has crafted the ‘Integrato Plan’, a mobility plan designed for Belgium, with integrated public transport using the rail network as its backbone. The plan, aiming at a more attractive public transport offer and double the passenger transported by 2035, has been presented to the SNCB/NMBS and to the Federal, Flemish, and Walloon parliaments.
“In my political advocacy work, I have been proposing this model for ten years. But each time I was confronted with the same answer: ‘it’s not possible, it’s a model that is not applicable in Belgium’. So, we decided to make this plan ourselves,” explains Juliette Walckiers, Integrato project coordinator, and specialist in multimodal mobility issues at Inter-Environnement Wallonie.
Every thirty minutes
Inspired by the Swiss rail model, the Integrato Plan aims at increasing the number of passengers transported by enhancing the experience. It plans to increase the number of trains, buses, and connections, all in a clocked and symmetrical manner. The basic principle is to run at least two trains per hour and per direction on all lines in the country.
The second and most important part is to arrange the schedule in such a way that trains cross paths at the stations, thus creating connections hubs. For the whole plan to work, bus connections at train stations must be based on the same schedule. For users, this not only increases the accessible destinations, but it also multiplies the number of public transport solutions available to them at the station.
With the Integrato Plan, trains and buses will arrive and leave at fixed times every thirty seconds. Trains, metros, buses, and trams all become part of one and only integrated public transport network. This opens numerous possibilities for other mobility operations to adapt their service to it.
For this integrated public transport system to work, Integrato calls for a national conductor to coordinate all activities at the federal level. This is where the project could lose some speed as Belgium is still waiting for a Federal Government to take form. The citizens hope that the future Mobility Minister could take the lead of this dossier and implement it.
At what cost?
“Thanks to clear long-term planning, only the new investments required to implement the plan will be made. Projects that look good but are not necessary can be abandoned. Integrato assumes that the usual investment budget should be sufficient to have the necessary new infrastructure ready by 2035,” develops the plan.
On the other hand, while investments will increase, the objective is also to double the number of passengers, which should imply a doubling of the profits. All that doesn’t increase the contextual benefits such as the reduction in traffic or pollution.
Backed by Wallonia
After going through the project, the SNCB/NMBS believes the project could be developed further. “It is necessary to develop further all discussions around these different concepts, taking into account their advantages and disadvantages, and to analyze the whole project under the technical, customer, and economic aspects,” notes the rail operator.
While the SNCB/NMBS stays prudent, Walloon Mobility Minister, Philippe Henry (MR) backs the projects. For him, Integrato is the perfect tool to accelerate the transition to alternative mobility by making public transport more attractive.