Dutch infrastucture minister astonishes MPs
Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen has astonished MPs by telling them that when maximum speeds on motorways are increased to 130 kilometres per hour in 2012, 20 percent of the roads will not be suitable for such speeds.
She says this is because measures to improve safety will not be ready until later. Nevertheless, she wants to introduce the increased maximum speed as of 2012 even on roads which still need to be adapted. She has given herself until 2014 to complete a raft of measures to accommodate for faster speeds. The reason the minister wants to introduce the new maximum speeds immediately is to avoid having a patchwork in the road network.
Meanwhile there is increasing resistance to the plan from coalition partner the Christian Democrats. MP Sander de Rouwe said he is in favour of increasing maximum speeds, but only “in a decent and responsible way”. He said he sees no problem on roads where higher speeds are possible, but thought it cost too much money to make other roads suitable “just so that motorists could put their foot down”.
The minister had set aside 132 million euros to make roads suitable for higher speeds, by increasing the length of motorway entries and exits, having fewer exits, removing narrow lanes and by introducing measures to lessen the effect on the environment and noise nuisance. The Christian Democrats think spending on roads at a time when all sectors face cuts is too high a price.
Mr De Rouwe also asked the minister for more information on increasing maximum speeds from 80 km per hour to 100 in urban areas. Rotterdam and Utrecht have already asked the minister to reconsider her plan. The minister says cars are cleaner nowadays and therefore higher speeds in urban areas are less of a health risk than they used to be.
MPs were astonished at the revelations. “It is incredibly sad how the government is treating road safety,” said Socialist Party MP Farshad Bashir. “We are talking about 683 kilometre of motorways,” he calculated. The debate has been adjourned to continue on another day. Meanwhile MPs will look at the new information.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide