State Opening of Parliament: additional investments in road and railway maintenance
The Netherlands boasts an efficient infrastructure. Maintaining this infrastructure requires continued investments. In the years ahead, Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen and State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven will be allocating – ahead of schedule – 1.9 billion euros to the maintenance and replacement of roads, railways, waterways, dams, and dykes. Over the next few years, this will give additional impetus to the management and maintenance of roads and railways.
Thus, we are not just investing in enhanced accessibility, safety, and liveability; we are also offering our construction sector some prospect of work in these difficult economic times.
The Corona crisis also impacts people’s mobility. People tend to restrict their travels nowadays. However, as the population is growing and many more houses will need to be built, pressure on roads, railways, and public transport will increase. This means that scheduled work will not be postponed. On the contrary. In the years ahead, railway authority ProRail and Rijkswaterstaat [the executive branch of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management] will set to work at full speed.
Stepping up the pace wherever possible
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen is providing more than half a billion euros ahead of schedule in order to give impetus to the maintenance of national infrastructure. This sum is supplementary to the additional 265 million euros that she has already allocated to the maintenance of bridges, tunnels and locks that have been constructed in the decades since World War II, and which are now due for an overhaul. Rijkswaterstaat and the construction sector are already reviewing which projects can be carried out in the near future, in order to have the work commissioned as soon as possible.
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen: ‘Currently, the roads are already nearly as busy as they were before the Corona crisis. That is why we are ensuring that our infrastructure will be in better shape, when the economy starts to pick up next. By stepping up the pace in maintenance projects, wherever possible, we aim to prevent delays near bridges and locks.’
Projects that will be expedited include the major overhaul of the N18 and A50 motorways in East-Netherlands, and the dredging of major rivers such as the Nederrijn-Lek, Bovenrijn-Waal, and the Twente Canals.
In the years ahead, State Secretary Van Veldhoven will be making more than 1.4 billion euros available ahead of schedule in the purview of railway maintenance and replacement. Approximately half of this additional budget will be spent between 2021 and 2023.
Ms Van Veldhoven: ‘For many people, the train is the pre-eminent mode of transport to go to work, to go to school, or to visit relatives. Our railway network is one of the busiest in the world. Additional investments now will prevent disruptions for travellers and goods transporters. ProRail will be commissioning jobs very soon. This means work for construction companies in difficult times, which is important.’
Flood risk management and climate adaptation
In the years ahead, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen will be investing an additional 200 million euros in climate adaptation and the combat of drought. Ms Van Nieuwenhuizen: ‘We are experiencing longer periods of drought and increasingly frequent torrential rain, causing waterlogging. Flood protection used to be our motto; now, we must also become water retention champions.’ Ms Van Nieuwenhuizen aims to use the money, in collaboration with district water boards, provinces, and municipalities, to tackle the main problems relating to water shortages and waterlogging, in order to create more certainty regarding the drinking water supply and to boost our crops’ and nature’s capability of coping with extreme weather. Also, the Cabinet presents Delta Programme 2021, drawn up by Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas. This sets out a host of measures in the fields of flood risk management, freshwater availability, and spatial adaptation.
In addition to creating additional work, Ms Van Nieuwenhuizen and Ms Van Veldhoven also aim to support the construction sector in their efforts to eliminate nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, with effect from next year, inland shippers will be exempt from paying energy tax on quayside electricity, an environmentally friendly alternative compared to the (diesel) units that are currently still being used quite frequently.
This year, Rijkswaterstaat and ProRail will be spending five million euros to have the work on the A16 motorway and the construction of a bus lane between Hilversum and Huizen carried out by fully zero-emission cranes, shovels, and road rollers. In addition, in 2021, construction companies may apply for grants to gain experience with clean machinery.
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen has joined forces with municipalities and provinces to improve road safety. Earlier, she announced that these parties may submit plans for specific measures to enhance the safety of roads and bicycle paths. So many good plans have been submitted from all over the country that Ms Van Nieuwenhuizen will be making an additional 100 million euros available to this end in 2021, supplementary to the 50 million euros which is already available annually. This will enable the authorities to expedite the reconstruction of accident-prone roundabouts, pavements, intersections, and other locations.
Economy without waste
State Secretary Van Veldhoven is investing 40 million euros in an economy without waste: the circular economy. The Cabinet aims to have the Netherlands fully circular by 2050 and is committed to a 50 per cent reduction in the use of primary resources by 2030. More efficient design, recycling, and reuse will prevent environmental pollution and CO2 emissions. Ms Van Veldhoven is setting aside 40 million euros to expedite and scale up the circular economy. The money will be spent on, e.g., specific circular initiatives from the SME sector, such as the development of a circular system of reusable cups for festivals. In addition, knowledge development and innovation will be promoted, an investment fund will be set up, and entrepreneurs will be supported in converting existing business models to circular business models.
Vitality of public transport
Next year, the Cabinet will also implement measures to keep public transport – as a vital sector – available for travellers. The Cabinet recommendation to work from home currently holds good for an indefinite period of time. For the time being, schools and universities will be providing a proportion of their courses online. As a result of this policy, passenger volumes and, consequently, transporter revenues are expected to lag behind, vis-à-vis the pre-Corona situation. That is why the Cabinet estimates that in 2021, the public transport sector will require support in the form of a public transport availability grant. For the period up to 1 July 2021, a sum of 740 million euros has been scheduled in the purview of this extension.