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An efficient transport system is essential for the economic development of Belgium. Today it is clear that transport not only contributes positively to welfare, but also causes negative effects. Witness to this are the many traffic jams on the roads and the problems caused by air pollution. By sketching an image of what the future might bring, this Planning Paper aims to present elements that can support the formulation of transport policies. The time horizon of the study is 2030.
The reference scenario builds upon a continuation of the current transport pricing policies and on the implementation of existing European directives that impose new emission standards and efficiency standards for vehicles, together with an increase in the use of biofuels. Based on the latest energy projections of the European Commission, it assumes that the crude oil price will be 63% higher in 2030 than in 2005. As regards the infrastructure policy, the scenario assumes a constant capacity for the road infrastructure. For rail transport and inland navigation, a constant speed is assumed.
Given these assumptions, the reference scenario projects a substantial growth in both freight and passenger transport in Belgium.
The total number of passenger km will increase by 30% between 2005 and 2030. The highest increase (35%) is recorded for 'other' purposes (shopping, leisure, etc.), followed by school trips (29%) and commuting (18%). The study considers six transport modes for passenger transport: non-motorized transport, rail, car with 1 occupant, car with at least 2 occupants, bus/tram/metro and motorcycle. In 2005 the car was dominant for all trip purposes, with a share of approximately 84%. This share is not expected to change by 2030. However, the share of cars with at least 2 occupants should fall, while that of cars with 1 occupant should rise. The share of rail should grow slightly, while that of bus/tram/metro should fall. The other modes should remain relatively unimportant.
The total number of ton km transported in Belgium by means of road, rail and inland navigation will increase by 60% between 2005 and 2030. The highest growth should take place for international transport to and from Belgium, which is expected to increase by 99% and 73%, respectively. Transit should grow by 52%, while national transport should rise by 40%. There should be a shift from the road modes (trucks and vans) to rail and inland navigation. The road modes will remain dominant, however, with a share at 71% in 2030.
The implementation of environmental policies will be successful in reducing direct emissions of the traditional air pollutants (CO, PM, NMVOC, NOX and SO2), even when taking into account the growth in transport. Greenhouse gas emissions will increase, however, by 18% between 2005 and 2030. In this case the increased fuel efficiency of the vehicles should be offset by the growth in transport.
The projected growth of passenger and freight transport should further deteriorate traffic conditions in Belgium. This is reflected in a projected fall in average road speed. In 2030, the average road speed in the peak period should be 31% lower than in 2005; in the off-peak period it should fall by 17%. This implies a strong increase in the marginal external congestion costs. Since the study assumes a constant road infrastructure capacity, the projected evolution of the congestion costs should be seen as an upper limit. However, even with an expansion of capacity, congestion is expected to grow. Therefore, new measures are required. Economic theory suggests that it is best to aim at a better correspondence between taxes and external costs via a change in transport pricing.
"Langetermijnvooruitzichten voor transport in België: referentiescenario - Perspectives à long terme de l’évolution des transports en Belgique: projection de référence", B. Hertveldt, B. Hoornaert, I. Mayeres, Planning Paper 107, March 2009.