Dutch infrastructure minister astonishes MPs

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Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen has surprised 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 yet be suitable for such speeds.

She said that measures to improve safety will not be ready until later. Nevertheless, she insisted on introducing 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 minister wants to prevent having a patchwork of speed limits in the road network.

Too high a price 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 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.

Incredibly sad 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

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