New effort needed to break addiction to car, say employers

Summary

The president of the Flemish chamber of commerce is convinced that road-use fees are the only way to get commuters out of their cars

A love-hate relationship

More must be done to get people out of their cars and on to other forms of transport, according to Flemish chamber of commerce Voka. “It’s high time an effort was made on good-quality alternatives to the car,” said Paul Kumpen, Voka’s president, this week.

He was commenting on survey results released on Monday that show the Flemish are stubbornly attached to their cars, while the few using public transport are far from happy. “Only one in three users of public transport is satisfied with the punctuality of trains, buses and trams,” Kumpen said. “That must be improved.”

The survey, commissioned by Voka, asked 1,000 people living in Flanders about the way they travel and their attitudes to the options available. The results show that the Flemish are addicted to their cars – but not in love with them.

Majority find driving ‘unpleasant’

Of the 800 car owners in the survey, 56% said that taking to the road was unpleasant, while 38% found it positively stressful. These feelings are not serious enough to outweigh the benefits, however, with 84% saying that the car was essential for their daily mobility. For the daily commute, 46% of those surveyed use a private car and 14% a company car.

Meanwhile barely one in 20 respondents make use of public transport on a daily basis, with 6% taking the train and 5% using buses or trams. The disadvantages of public transport included its accessibility, its cost and its punctuality.

Voka is a fan of road fee proposals that would shift the tax burden onto people who drive frequently

Getting people to change will not be easy. Those with company cars are among the hardest to shift, with 80% saying they would not be prepared to exchange them. Around 20% said they would consider the change if they got a salary boost, but it would take €660 net to seal the deal. Options to work more flexibly would also help soften the blow.

Voka is a fan of road fee proposals that would shift the tax burden onto people who drive frequently, during rush hour and with more polluting vehicles. Costs would be cut for those who drive little, outside the peak hours and with cleaner cars.

The survey showed that half of those questioned support such a move, but that one-third are not sufficiently informed on the concept. “So it’s time to communicate better as a government and to work on implementation,” Kumpen concluded.

Photo: Dirk Waem/BELGA