Ghent’s new traffic plan passes first major test

Summary

The new circulation plan in Ghent came through the first day after the Easter holidays without serious incident, though opposition politicians say their criticisms of the system remain

‘Reasonably calm’

The first day of real traffic since Ghent introduced its new circulation plan passed without serious problems. The plan came into force on 3 April, but as that was the start of school holidays, 18 April was considered to be the first real test, when schools would reopen and employees would go back to work after the Easter break.

The day is reported to have gone relatively smoothly, and traffic steward Rudy Van Heyste said that the first week of the Easter holiday had in fact been busier than the first day back. “I assume a lot of people had taken precautions,” he said. “They left home earlier or later, or they took the bus; they seem to be fuller than usual.”

Most drivers, he said, have had time since the plan was announced to work out their alternatives and make plans. “In the space of an hour I’ve handed out four maps,” he said. “Most people have figured out in advance what’s new.”

The Ghent ring road did suffer from traffic jams, though it’s not yet clear whether they were worse than usual.

Opposition leader Elke Sleurs (N-VA) pointed out that the real test would be in the medium term, while the party’s fundamental criticism on questions like economic impact and air quality remains. Filip Watteeuw, councillor in charge of mobility, said everything went “reasonably calmly”, but agreed that the real test of the plan was in the medium term, not on one day.

Photo: Philippe Francois/Belga