Federal government to discuss repair of Brussels tunnels

Summary

With the capital’s Stefania tunnel closed and the Leopold II tunnel crumbling, the regional and federal governments are starting discussions on financing repairs and upkeep

“Brussels is responsible”

Brussels opposition parties N-VA and MR have called for a parliamentary commission to investigate the city’s tunnels, following news that the Stefania tunnel under Louizaplein must be closed for repairs for up to a year.

According to N-VA and MR – both parties form part of the federal government coalition – the parlous state of Brussels’ tunnels is the result of decades of mismanagement. A commission would examine the exact causes. “The people have a right to clarity,” said Cieltje Van Achter of N-VA.

The latest incident was falling masonry in the Leopold II tunnel, the longest tunnel in the country. It was closed for inspection on Sunday night and re-opened yesterday morning with a report of “no evidence of danger” from Brussel Mobiliteit. About 65,000 vehicles a day go through the tunnel.

Federal deputy prime minister Didier Reynders (MR) has joined with opposition socialist Laurette Onkelinx to call for the federal government to sit down with the Flemish, Brussels and Walloon regions to seek a solution to the renovation and maintenance of the tunnels. Prime minister Michel has put the issue on the agenda of this week’s Concertation Committee, which is made up of representatives of all governments.

Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts has rejected any proposal that the regions contribute to the cost of  improving the state of the capital’s tunnels. “You can’t just send your bills over to be paid by someone else,” he said. “Brussels is responsible, and they have to pay. It makes no difference that Flemish people make use of Brussels infrastructure. People from Wallonia and Brussels use the E40 to go to the coast, but we don’t ask for money from the other regions.”

Photo: Jubelpark tunnel, one of a network of tunnels on the inner Brussels ring road
©Varech/Wikimedia

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