I&M 2015 budget: investing in better connections and a cleaner living environment

In 2015, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment will be spending 9.2 billion euros on making the Netherlands healthier, more sustainable and more accessible. In this way, the Ministry is contributing to the economic recovery, the first cautious signs of which can already be seen. Among other things, through the infrastructure funds, 2.3 billion euros will be spent on roads, 2.4 billion on railways and 0.9 billion on waterways. From the Delta Fund, some 1.4 billion euros will be spent on measures to protect our country from floods, for instance.  

The main focus of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M) is on keeping the Netherlands strong. A country in which people can live and travel in a safe and healthy living environment and profit from a strong international competitive position.
Minister Schultz van Haegen: ‘It is of vital importance to our economy that people and goods arrive at their destination as quickly as possible. In 2015, we are therefore going to invest heavily in our infrastructure and eliminate obstacles in the regulations in order to facilitate spatial development.'
State Secretary Mansveld: ‘A strong economy is a green economy. Together with members of the public and the business community, I will be working towards creating cleaner cities in a sustainable country, where people can travel in comfort and quickly from door to door. For this reason, we will first improve the quality of the major transport links before expanding them.'

Water

In 2015, the theme of the policy on water will be the Delta Decisions on water safety and an adequate freshwater supply. A new approach will be introduced aimed at providing better flood protection whereby everyone in the Netherlands will enjoy at least the same basic level of safety, large numbers of casualties and economic loss will be prevented in as far as possible, and vital infrastructure (such as power stations and hospitals) will be better protected.

Accessibility

Roads
Accessibility in our country has improved visibly over the past years. The length and duration of traffic jams fell by eight percent in 2013. Regarding the years ahead, the Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis (KiM) forecasts a growth in traffic jams of 2.5 percent per year as a result of the economic recovery. The Ministry will continue to invest heavily in the road network in order to cope with this growth. In 2015, a total of 278 kilometres of roads will be constructed. New steps will be taken in several large-scale road projects, including the  Blankenburg Tunnel, the Utrecht Ring Road and the A13-A16.  The A4 Delft-Schiedam will open to traffic and the widening of the A15 Maasvlakte-Vaanplein will be completed.

The issues regarding accessibility require more than new infrastructure alone. Space is limited in urban areas, existing infrastructure has to be used better. New technologies offer an abundance of options in that respect: cars that can communicate with one another and the roadside and self-driving cars which can ensure that available roads are used more efficiently while increasing road safety at the same time. Trials involving these promising innovations will be carried out in 2015.

Public Transport
“First improvement, then expansion” is the starting point for public transport by rail and road in the years ahead. The aim is to improve quality significantly, including better door-to-door connections, more comfort on those connections and better passenger information. The Long-term Rail Agenda which was presented this year will serve as a guideline. In 2015, new concessions will go into effect for the management and maintenance of the railways and transport on the main rail network. It applies here too that the bar will be raised regarding quality and punctuality. 

Aviation
The strong international position of Schiphol Airport will be maintained. The development of regional airports is of vital importance to allow for the balanced growth of Schiphol.  For this reason, expansion work will begin on the airport in Lelystad in 2015.

Employment
Investments in civil engineering works, and hydraulic engineering and road construction projects are good for employment. Calculations made by the Economic Research Institute for Small and Medium-Sized Business show that an investment of 100 million euros in the sector will deliver 700 to 800 jobs for a 12-month period. The hubs of Schiphol and Rotterdam are also important in terms of job opportunities.

Climate and the Environment

The most important goal of the climate policy remains limiting the consequences of climate change. The Netherlands is aiming for a totally sustainable energy supply in 2050. In 2015, the emphasis is on implementing the Climate Agenda and the SER Energy Agreement. This agreement sets out that in 2023, the Netherlands will obtain 16 percent of its energy from sustainable sources. At the international level, the objective is to conclude a new global climate agreement between all countries at the UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015.

Regarding the environment, new developments are happening at a fast pace. It is therefore of crucial importance that the environmental policy is as up to date as possible in order to keep the Netherlands clean, safe and healthy. When fleshing out the Modernisation of the Environmental Policy, the express choice will be made to involve everyone: the authorities, the business community and the public at large. After all, the environment belongs to everyone and not just to a national government that sets rules unilaterally. Together, we are making the Netherlands more sustainable, safer and healthier. Examples of partnerships include the platform Duurzaamdoen.nl and the Safety Deals made between authorities and chemical companies aimed at improving safety in the sector. The cabinet will be tackling pollution at its source, for example by encouraging people to own and drive clean cars.

I&M and Cities

Our cities continue to grow and urban areas are the economic engine that drives  the Netherlands. This is becoming increasingly more true. The expectation is that 75 percent of spatial growth will take place in these areas. Developments and innovations can be realized more quickly there because people live and works in closer proximity to one other than in other regions. The reverse side of the coin is that health, safety and sustainability are coming under increased pressure in cities.

The cabinet is aiming to develop urban areas into attractive places for both people and businesses. The Beter Benutten [Better Use] programme (part of the Multi-Year Plan for Infrastructure, Spatial Planning and Transport, MIRT) is focused on intelligent solutions to accessibility problems and cutting travelling time.

Cities are also places in which ideas can be tried out and applied on a small and large scale, places where small-scale solutions can have large-scale effects. This makes cities potentially “intelligent” societies. Together with partners at the city level, the Ministry wants to use this power to work on the intelligent, healthy and liveable design of the region. To this end, I&M is collaborating with the Ministries of Economic Affairs and the Interior on the Agenda Stad [Cities Agenda] which is aimed at keeping Dutch cities among the world’s best in terms of competitive strength and liveability. There are also good opportunities for the Netherlands to export ideas and concrete actions, for example in the fields of urban planning, water management and energy saving. 

Environmental Act

The Environmental Bill was recently sent to the House of Representatives. Twenty-four environmental laws will be included in the Act either in part or in full. The Act is intended to simplify and reduce regulations. For example, all the laws and regulations regarding the living environment have been consolidated, and complex and fragmented regulations simplified. In addition, the Act allows room for regional differences, for innovation and for individual initiative. Experiments with the new working method are already underway in anticipation of the Environmental Act entering into force.