Basics up to par: additional funding for maintenance of roads, waterways, and railroads

The Dutch infrastructure ranks among the world’s best. Its roads, railroads, bicycle tracks, canals, and rivers are being used by millions of people. The infrastructure is under pressure as a result of ever increasing and ever heavier traffic. Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen and State Secretary Van Veldhoven want to keep the maintenance of our infrastructure up to par. They are setting aside a good 2.6 billion euros from the Infrastructure Fund to safeguard the maintenance of roads, railroads, and waterways, in order to ensure that in the years ahead, everyone will reach their destination safely and with minimal delay.

Today, on Prinsjesdag – the State opening of Parliament – the Minister and the State Secretary announced the first measures to tackle the major tasking involved in the maintenance and renovation of roads, railroads, bridges, locks, tunnels, and flyovers. Many locks, bridges, tunnels, and railroad connections have been in operation for 75 years and need overhaul. The application of new technologies will render the infrastructure more sustainable, more reliable, and more efficient in terms of maintenance.

Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen: ‘The Dutch economy is doing well. And we can see that. Our roads and public transit systems are becoming increasingly busy. This makes extremely heavy demands on our infrastructure. I want the basics to be up to par, in order to enable people to travel safely and speedily. A hard-working, successful country boasting a flourishing economy deserves a strong foundation.’

State Secretary Van Veldhoven: ‘In the years ahead, increasingly more people will be opting for the train. In order to continue to be able to offer all these additional travellers a fast and comfortable journey, it is more important than ever for the railroads to be in tiptop shape in the next decades.’

Impetus to locks and waterways

In addition to the major reserves earmarked for infrastructure maintenance, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen is giving substantial impetus to the Dutch waterways, by allocating a sum of 100 million euros from the Infrastructure Fund in 2020. Ten million euros will be available for improvements to the ferry bridges of the Wadden Sea ferry services, 14.5 million euros will be invested in the renovation of several locks in the Lemmer-Delfzijl main shipping route, and 10 million euros will go to the Maas-Waal Canal whose old Weurt lock will be renovated, among other things. The measures will make it easier for canal users to pass through the locks and reduce delays on the waterways.

Clean air

By allocating 50 million euros to the implementation of the Clean Air Agreement, the State Secretary is making a real effort to improve the air quality throughout the Netherlands. By 2030, health damage from air pollution must be halved vis-à-vis 2016.

Ms Van Veldhoven: ‘Our air can and must become cleaner. Clean air is vitally important: to our health, to a healthy future. In collaboration with municipal and provincial authorities, I am working hard on the Clean Air Agreement, which is due by this autumn, and which features concrete measures aimed at cleaner air.’

Road safety

In 2020, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen will be joining forces with NGOs, provinces and municipalities to reduce traffic tolls. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is commissioning a study, among other things, to explore which roundabouts and intersections pose the highest accident risk. The outcomes of this study will be used to provide municipal and provincial authorities with suggestions for improvement. Furthermore, the central government will be providing traffic experts, on a temporary basis, who can assist municipalities and provinces in mapping out and tackling the main road safety risks. In addition, a special “road safety data taskforce” will be set up to provide road maintenance authorities with data and information regarding unsafe situations, that can subsequently be tackled.

Ms Van Nieuwenhuizen: ‘I regard road safety as a top priority, because every road casualty is one too many. Consequently, next year, we will continue to put in our best efforts, along with other governments, NGOs and private parties, to increase road safety. Our aim is clear: zero road casualties.’

Roads

In 2020, nearly 3 billion euros will be invested in the construction and maintenance of roads. Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen is thus taking significant strides in accommodating the growth in automobile traffic and the heavier impact of freight transport on the roads.

The Council of State verdict regarding the Nitrogen Management Programme will impact, to a greater or lesser degree, several road projects that are being prepared in that respect. The Cabinet has asked an advisory board chaired by former Minister Remkes to suggest solutions. This autumn, the Minister will be informing the House of Representatives regarding the consequences for new projects rolled out under the Multi-Year Programme for Infrastructure, Spatial Planning and Transport (MIRT).

Ongoing road widening projects will continue to keep up the pace. The expansion of the Gaasperdammerweg will be completed next year. This 36.5 km stretch of motorway will have two times five lanes, with a tunnel underneath an urban area, topped by a large urban park. In 2020, the final project involved in the expansion of the motorways between Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, and Almere will commence: the widening of the A9 motorway between Badhoevedorp and Holendrecht.

With respect to the construction of additional lanes on the A15 motorway, between Papendrecht and Sliedrecht, the shovel will hit the ground in 2020. By setting down a preferential decision, the Minister is also taking a significant step towards the widening of the A2 motorway between Deil and Den Bosch. In the eastern part of the country, the first section of the widened A1 motorway between Apeldoorn and Azelo will be opened: a stretch of some 30 km of motorway between Twello and Rijssen will have another lane by next year.

Short-term measures to combat tailbacks

Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen has earmarked 100 million euros for short-term measures to tackle tailbacks. In addition to the deployment of recovery services and road inspectors near busy motorways, the money will be spent on, e.g., a new generation of traffic lights to streamline traffic flows at motorway access and exit roads during morning and evening peak hours. In 2020, 34 such traffic control units will be placed at locations such as the A12 motorway near Arnhem and Oosterbeek, the A30 motorway near Ede, and the A50 motorway near Renkum. Furthermore, the Minister is scheduling measures to prevent trucks that are too high from driving into tunnels, thus causing damage and tailbacks. In the immediate future, photo signs near the Schiphol tunnel will display a warning message and a photo of a truck driver’s own truck if the vehicle is too high to enter the tunnel. This will enable the driver to change his route in time. In 2020, such photo signs will also be placed near the Coen tunnel, where trucks that are too high regularly cause tailbacks.

Railroads

State Secretary Van Veldhoven will be investing 2.6 billion euros in adaptations of and around railroads. The money will be used to future-proof the railroad system. More intensive utilisation of the railroads is needed in order to be able to cope with the growth in travellers and freight volumes. The Cabinet is investing in the new ERTMS railroad security system, enabling trains to safely follow one another more closely. In the years ahead, railroad tracks and trains will be fitted with this new, digital system. Furthermore, over the next few years, the railroads will be prepared for increasing train frequencies, such as the popular “ten-minute trains” that are already servicing the connection between Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Eindhoven.

Sustainable transport

In the years ahead, impetus will be given to the implementation of the measures set out in the Climate Agreement. Our transport accounts for one-quarter of CO2 emissions. For that reason, the Cabinet is scheduling a range of measures aimed at rendering transport more sustainable. Both private citizens and entrepreneurs will be encouraged to purchase zero-emission electric vehicles, either new or used. In order to make charging electric cars as easy as charging a phone, a total of 1.8 million charging points will be constructed over the next few years, among which will be “smart charging points” that improve the capacity of the power grid. Greener fuel will be available for petrol or diesel cars. In addition, more room will be created for the secret weapon against busy roads: the bicycle. At numerous locations, shovels will hit the ground to create more bicycle parking facilities and express cycling routes. A new leasing scheme will make the purchase of advanced long-distance bicycles considerably simpler and more affordable.

Circular economy

The missing link in the attainment of the Paris climate goals is the circular economy: an economy without waste. The Cabinet aims to have the Netherlands reuse, to the maximum extent possible, 50 per cent of the materials used, while processing a maximum of waste into useful raw materials. Accordingly, the Cabinet is setting aside a once-only sum of 80 million euros to foster circular projects that also generate a CO2 reduction in areas such as civil engineering, hydraulic engineering, and the plastics chain. In addition, the Cabinet is allocating a sum of 8 million euros in its 2020 budget to programmes aimed at promoting the transition towards a circular economy in several sectors.

Extreme weather

The year 2020 will also see measures to combat the impact of extreme weather, such as waterlogging caused by extreme rainfall, drought, and urban flooding. In addition to the annual expenditure from the Delta Fund aimed at, e.g., improving our dykes, some 10 million euros will once again be available in 2020 for knowledge programmes and local projects aimed at mitigating climate damage, such as the inundation of urban areas during severe downpours.

Last year, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen initiated the Global Commission on Adaptation, which presented its flagship report last week. In her capacity as a member of the Commission, she will kick off the campaign year on 24 September during the UN climate summit in New York, along with Commission Chairs Ban Ki-Moon, Kristalina Georgieva, and Bill Gates. In 2019, the Commission will be working on concrete plans for improving the resilience of vulnerable areas across the globe, as set out in its report. On 22 October 2020, the campaign year will be rounded off during the Climate Action summit in Amsterdam.

Aviation

A new strategy will be developed for Schiphol Airport. Beyond 2020, Schiphol Airport may grow by small steps at a time, yet this growth is not a matter of course. Only after a demonstrable reduction of nuisance to local residents will the national airport be allowed some extra space in return. Over the next few months, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen will be elaborating the strategy in more detail, along with local stakeholders and the aviation sector. Furthermore, by the end of 2019, the House of Representatives will receive the draft Aviation Memorandum regarding the development of the aviation sector and the airports in the Netherlands until 2050. The plans will be finalised in 2020. In the summer of 2020, the Cabinet will decide on the draft preferential variant regarding a new airspace division.

For more information on Prinsjesdag and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management: www.nieuwsienw.nl