I&M 2016 Budget: Innovative solutions for a sustainable and accessible country

In 2016, the Ministry of Infrastructure & the Environment (I&M) will spend almost 9 billion euros on innovative solutions to problems involving accessibility, flood risk management and sustainability. Via the infrastructure fund, a total of 5.8 billion euros will be spent on railways, roads and waterways in 2016. On top of the necessary expenditure on management and maintenance, over 2.6 billion of this amount will be made available for new investments. Some 1.2 billion euros from the Delta Fund will be used on measures aimed at protecting our country against flooding and ensuring an adequate supply of freshwater.

The Ministry of Infrastructure & the Environment is focusing on making the Netherlands a liveable and accessible country with a strong international position in the fields of infrastructure, logistics and water management. The basis for this has been laid over the past years with an agreement on the expansion of Schiphol and Lelystad airports, the Environment & Planning Act, the Delta Programme, a National Water Plan and the establishment of the Dutch Climate Coalition. Since the start of the cabinet term, Rijkswaterstaat (the executive branch of I&M) has built 440 kilometres of new road lanes.

Minister Schultz van Haegen: ‘Our country is a world leader in infrastructure and intelligent logistics. Now that our country’s economy is recovering, we expect to have more people and goods on railways, roads and waterways. That is why in 2016 we will invest heavily in our infrastructure. We will take decisive action to remedy significant missing links in our road network, such as the Blankenburg link, and we will start building a new sea lock in IJmuiden. Moreover, by experimenting with self-driving vehicles and intelligent traffic management we will make the Netherlands the world’s testing ground.’

Minister for the Environment Mansveld: ‘The climate is changing. We will work on solutions. A global climate change agreement in December 2015 in Paris means ambitious agreements on further reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainability brings with it economic opportunities. We all need to pull together in this regard. And that is why I am actively working with other countries, cities and companies on concrete actions aimed at making us more resilient to the consequences of climate change.’

Accessibility

Accessibility across our country has been significantly improved over the past years thanks to continuous investment and the more intelligent use of infrastructure. Consequently, tailbacks have been reduced to a level equivalent to that at the end of the 1990s. Urbanisation and a recovering economy are, however, leading to increasing pressure on roads and public transport. For this reason, Ministers Schultz and Mansveld will continue to invest in expanding our road network, strengthening rail links and implementing measures focused on the behaviour of motorists, passengers and companies. This last point is being tackled through new, innovative traffic management technologies, intelligent logistics and information provision to motorists, passengers and companies.

In 2016, infrastructure users and transporters will be able to make full use of the A4 Delft - Schiedam motorway and the widened A15 motorway between the Maasvlakte and Vaanplein. The door-to-door trip will be more comfortable thanks to the completion of three completely rebuilt railway stations in The Hague, Breda and Utrecht. In addition, the Cabinet is firmly committed to making progress in projects that are of significant importance to the economy, including the A1, A6 and A9 at Amsterdam. It is important to the Dutch economy that the aviation sector retains its strong international position. The development of Lelystad Airport and Eindhoven Airport is necessary to enable Schiphol to expand. Work on the expansion of Lelystad Airport will commence in 2016.

Important decisions will be made regarding the Blankenburg link, the extended A15, the A13/16, the Utrecht Ring Road, the Utrecht transit rail station and the Beatrix Lock. In addition, the introduction of the ERTMS train protection system in the Netherlands will increase rail safety, leading to improved reliability and greater capacity.

Through the Beter Benutten (Optimising Use) programme, together with the business community and other authorities, I&M is working on improving accessibility and liveability especially in metropolitan areas. Annually, over 6 million vehicles are disappearing from morning and evening peak hours thanks to the programme which will be continued in the years ahead. Together, the state and the regions will have invested approximately 600 million euros by the end of 2017. The aim of the follow-up programme is to reduce peak-hour travelling times in the busiest areas by 10%.

A minimum of 10% of the 600-million-euro budget has been reserved for realising ambitions in the area of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). New opportunities will be created for road and public transport users, administrators, transporters and the Dutch business community by developing new mobile information technology and ITS. The Cabinet is supporting the use of ITS in order to optimise the use of existing infrastructure and to more intelligently utilise travel information available for road and public transport users. Another promising development is the further automation of vehicles. Currently, legislation has been amended so that experience can be acquired regarding self-driving cars operating on public roads. To this end, experiments will be conducted in 2016.

Flood risk management

In 2016, virtually all the projects in the Room for the River programme will be delivered. This means that in over thirty places in the Netherlands water will have more room in order to better protect almost five million people. The focus next year will also be on the new flood protection standards. The long-term aim is to provide everyone in the Netherlands with at least the same level of protection and to develop our country in a water-robust manner. Furthermore, the intended improvement of the Afsluitdijk (IJsselmeer Closure Dam) will be of benefit to safety, energy provision and nature development. In addition, agreements will be made with authorities to safeguard the freshwater supply in the long term. 

Climate and the Environment

Negotiations on the new global climate change agreement will be completed by December 2015. At COP 21 (the UN climate change conference in Paris), world leaders will sign new agreements to further reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from 2020. Due in part to the efforts of the Netherlands, companies, regions and civic society organisations are also playing a role in fleshing out the agreements. The Dutch Climate Coalition, consisting of companies, authorities and civic society organisations, advocates business operations that are less harmful to the climate and will involve even more companies and civic society organisations in its efforts. In addition, I&M remains strongly committed to source-based policy, i.e., making the Dutch vehicle fleet cleaner, quieter and more economical. This is not only good for the climate (because fewer pollutants are emitted) but also for the living environment in large cities that are still troubled by air pollution problems. In 2016, solutions to these problems will be sought in collaboration with the cities concerned. Alongside an increase in cleaner cars, more and more initiatives are being taken aimed at organising urban transport more intelligently and encouraging electric transport.

Environment & Planning Act

On Wednesday 12 July, the House of Representatives adopted the Environment & Planning bill. The new law puts an end to complex, lengthy and fragmented legislation. Soon we will have a single law for the entire living environment. Fewer regulations, higher quality for the living environment, greater freedom of choice for businesses and members of the public, and shorter procedures. In 2016, the four Orders in Council will be assessed, consultation will take place and the orders will be presented to the House: the Environment & Planning Order, the Quality of the Living Environment Order, the Construction Works & Living Environment Order and the Activities in the Living Environment Order. The Ministry is developing a digital platform in collaboration with the administrative umbrella organisations, which will make it possible to apply for permits online in the near future. 

Waste as a resource

The Netherlands is a world leader in the reuse of waste as a valuable resource. New initiatives have been planned for 2016 too, aimed at increasing reuse in collaboration with the business community and other authorities. For example, the launch of a pilot that involves handing in small tins and small plastic bottles. This pilot will be set up alongside the existing system of refundable deposits through which large plastic bottles are already recycled. In order to reduce environmentally harmful waste, several initiatives will be launched in 2016, including a ban on free plastic bags as of 1 January. Plans will be drawn up with various parties, such as schools, shopping malls and event organisers, to separate waste outdoors at increasingly more places.

Mapping the subsurface

The draft Subsurface Spatial Planning Vision (abbreviated to STRONG in Dutch) is expected in early 2016. STRONG will assist in showing the places where underground activities that are of national importance, such as mining and underground drinking water extraction, are possible.

Netherlands to hold EU presidency

The Netherlands will hold the Presidency of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2016. Among other things, the aim is to use the presidency to take the climate agenda a step further. An important aspect in this regard is the elaboration of the agreements that will be adopted at the UN climate change conference in Paris at the end of this year. In addition, attention needs to be paid to I&M areas, such as the environment and water, in order to arrive at more consistent legislation that is easier to implement. Under the Dutch presidency, the transport agenda will be focused on the contribution of transport, logistics and mobility to the Juncker Commission’s top priority of creating jobs, and boosting economic growth and investment.