On 10 October 2017, the four political parties that will be represented in the forthcoming government presented their coalition agreement: ‘Confidence in the Future’ [Vertrouwen in de toekomst]. The coalition agreement is the result of negotiations between the conservative liberal party VVD, the Christian-democratic party CDA, the liberal party D66 and the conservative Christian-democratic party ChristenUnie and constitutes one of the last steps in a lengthy government formation process, which commenced in March 2017.
The coalition agreement sets out the most important political ambitions for the government’s term of office and can be regarded as a multi-annual road map of government policy. In this article we will outline the government’s most important ambitions for mobility and the mobility industry. After a short remark on the proposed increase in infrastructure investments, we will address the most important ambitions and proposed measures in the following market segments: (i) road transport, (ii) public transport and (iii) aviation.
An increase in infrastructure investments
Over the next three years, the government will increase investments in infrastructure by EUR 2 billion (EUR 0.5 billion in 2018, EUR 1 billion in 2019 and EUR 0.5 billion in 2020). As of 2021, the annual budget for infrastructure investments will be structurally increased by EUR 100 million. New investments will be premised on the results of the ‘National Market and Capacity Analysis 2017’ [Nationale Markt- en Capaciteitsanalyse 2017], which was published on 1 May 2017 by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. Priority will be given to the most economically profitable projects and to projects that can be co-financed by decentralised governments.
The government has emphasised that it will take into account developments in the area of self-driving cars when designing, building and maintaining road infrastructure. Government information on (road) transport related issues will be made publicly available as much as possible.
The government aims to ensure that all new cars will be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 at the latest. Although the government has emphasised that it will ensure that the infrastructure required for these plans will be available, it has also stressed that the supply and the commercial operation of such infrastructure (e.g. charging stations) is primarily the responsibility of the private sector. Previous Dutch governments have considered the introduction of a road pricing system for passenger cars [rekeningrijden]. Although the government has explicitly dismissed the introduction of road pricing for passenger cars, it has stated that it will conduct pilot studies into ‘alternative means of paying for transport’. It will conduct these studies together with the so-called ‘Mobility Alliance’ (Mobiliteitsalliantie) . However, a road pricing system will be introduced for road freight transport – which has already been introduced in neighbouring countries. The revenues generated due to the introduction of the road pricing system will be reinvested in the transport sector by lowering the motor vehicle tax for lorries and by making extra funds available for innovation and sustainability.
The state-run enterprise ‘Dutch Railways’ [Nederlandse Spoorwegen] is the concession holder for passenger transport on the main railway network. This concession will end on 1 January 2025. In 2019, the performance of Dutch Railways will be evaluated. The government has explicitly stated that an open tender of the passenger transport concession on the main railway network may be a possibility from 2025 onwards. The government has also stressed that if Dutch Railways does not meet the performance indicators for the ‘High-Speed Line South’ [Hogesnelheidslijn Zuid] (for the third time in a row) it will proceed to a retender of that concession.
To promote a regionally integrated approach to public transport solutions and to ameliorate connections between different means of transportation, more slow train services will be transferred from the main railway network concession to regional concessions. Also, the government will enter into agreements with urban regions to expand public transport networks in those regions, for instance by further developing light rail transit infrastructure. Following Belgium’s investments in the railway infrastructure connecting Antwerp to Hamont, the Dutch government will invest in the connecting Hamont to Weert railway infrastructure, reopening this infrastructure for passenger transport. Lastly, the government has emphasised that it will pass legislation to facilitate the development of flexible and demand-oriented public transport (the ‘mobility as a service’ approach).
The government has re-emphasised the importance of Schiphol for the Dutch economy. A new ‘Aviation Policy Document (2020 – 2040)’ [Luchtvaartnota (2020 – 2040)] will be adopted to increase measures to reduce nuisance. The industry has been invited to look at ways to increase flight movements by developing smarter and cleaner aircraft.
The government has also stated that it will adopt the necessary measures to put in place the reconfiguration of Dutch airspace by 2023 at the latest. This reconfiguration will reduce nuisance caused by aircraft and CO2-emissions thus creating possibilities for growth of Schiphol (and Lelystad) airport(s). New aviation taxes will also be introduced although the form and substance of such measures is not known at this moment in time.
The ‘Confidence in the Future’ coalition agreement has been prepared against the backdrop of economic growth, rising employment and sound government finances. The government has indicated that it is ready and willing to create the necessary preconditions for such economic growth by making available an extra EUR 2 billion for infrastructure investments over the next three years. The Dutch government’s readiness to invest significantly in infrastructure conveys a positive message to society (in general) and contractors (in particular), and evidences confidence in the future, which is reflected in the name of the coalition agreement.
It will be interesting to see exactly how the extra funds will be used during the forthcoming government’s term of office in light of the many – varied – ambitions outlined. From investments in self-driving cars to the further development of light rail transit infrastructure and from the advocacy of the ‘mobility as a service’ approach to continued growth of Schiphol, the ‘Confidence in the Future’ coalition agreement provides interesting opportunities for market players operating in any of the mobility market segments whilst also providing the requisite financial means to fund the seizing of those opportunities. The Stibbe Mobility Group will gladly exchange ideas with market players in the mobility industry about the various opportunities offered by the ‘Confidence in the Future’ coalition agreement.