Ben Weyts, the Flemish Minister for Mobility, Public Works, the Flemish Periphery of Brussels, Tourism and Animal Welfare, discusses the region’s challenges in the mobility sector, highlighting the opportunities of the alternative transportation development.
European Times: Which are some of the Ministry’s major achievements?
Ben Weyts: The Ministry undertakes important measures in order to improve and develop each sector it represents and governs. Regarding the mobility and the public works, the Ministry adopted an ambitious plan, ensuring funding of approximately €5.8 billion, projected for use until 2019. This budget covers investments in roads, railways, bridges, ports, waterways and bicycle paths, putting priority on the road safety and job accessibility.
Being the first Flemish Ministry responsible for the Animal Welfare, we play an important role in the protection of farm, exotic and laboratory animals, developing policy and detailed inspection against animal abuse.
Considering tourism as one of the most important sectors of the economy, our endeavours are focused on the development of Flanders as attractive tourist destination, including the promotion of the Flemish Masters and the Flemish cuisine, the cycling past and present, the festivals, the heritage and the Flemish coast.
European Times: What are some of the main challenges in the Flemish mobility sector?
Ben Weyts: Mobility Problems stifle Flanders and the Flemish. The increased use of cars causes traffic congestion and side effects on the citizens, the environment and the economy.
I strongly believe that the solution for the traffic congestion can be found in the development of alternative transport such as the waterways. In this context, 80% of all companies in Flanders are less than ten kilometres from a navigable waterway, and if only a part of them uses the waterways, it will result with less traffic on the highways. An advanced solution for the congestion is the Combi Mobility, where passengers easily switch between different modes of transport.
European Times: What are the Ministry’s future objectives and goals?
Ben Weyts: The main strategy of the Flemish Government is to invest in the development. The Government reorganizes its operations, allocating the savings into ambitious investments that offer new hope and perspectives for Flanders. In this context, the Ministry will undertake a few important infrastructure projects, such as The Oosterweel Link, an infrastructure plan that will improve the access to the city and the port of Antwerp, relieving the traffic congestion on the Antwerp Ring Road. The Government is also investing in the redevelopment of the Brussels Ring, a project with an estimated value of €2 billion, which includes the redesign of 20 kilometres motorway Ring, 40 kilometres cycling roads and 60 kilometres of tram lines, in order to provide larger accessibility to Brussels through alternative roads.
European Times: What is your personal message?
Ben Weyts: The Flemish Government is a government that is investing. Many people talk about savings, but our government has saved in order to invest. We have put the accounts in order, we have saved a lot in our own operations so we could made room for ambitious investments that offer new hope and new perspectives for Flanders. That story is not being told often, but it is reality.