The suburbanization of Flanders has led to a strongly fragmented spatial structure (a post urban landscape) where also travel patterns have become more diffuse and individualized. Due to Belgium's early industrialization, Flanders has a very dense network of railways, with good intercity connections. It also holds a well developed network of busses for local transport. But for trips at medium range distance, which we will call 'regional', there is no adequate public transport that can act as an alternative for the car. Because of the suburbanization though, these 'regional' trips increasingly gain importance. People travel from their dispersed homes to separated school campuses, peripheral industrial estates, or suburban shopping centres. Because of this dispersal of origins and destinations, traffic congestion is hard to conquer. Next to the big agglomerations, it now also threatens the secondary road network. This omnipresent occupation of the road network threatens all traffic solutions that do not make use of another set of connections. Only separate tracks guarantee an arrival in time. They have become the indispensable condition for any efficient and punctual form of public transport.

In France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries, effective public transport systems have been developed to cover medium range distances and successfully compete with car traffic. These transportation schemes based on light rail, stand midway between the classic tram systems and heavy rail transport: light, fast moving vehicles with quite large capacity are used at low exploitation costs for travels between 10 and 40 km. One could argue that the Flemish condition of diffused urbanity is not very favorable for the implementation of such a transport sytem. New trajectories will certainly meet many hurdles and bundling activities aroud nodes will not always be evident. On the other hand, overall population density is comparatively high, even outside the main centres. At this very moment, the Flemish public transport company De Lijn is already preparing a small scale introduction of light rail. Three lines are being planned in Limburg, alongside the fast tramways down the Northsee coast and to the outskirts of Antwerp's agglomeration. In practice, this initiative is still led by shortterm objectives. It lacks the scientific rationale in order to integrate the domains of mobility, urbanism, spatial planning and social economics into the conception of the light rail.

It is indeed very probable that the development of an extensive network op public transport will cause major shifts in the travel behavior and have a large social impact. One can also expect that a new infrastructure of such a big scale will in the long run lead to a reassortment of activities and have a major impact on spatial development. The Flemish region does not have the tradition of tackling such important changes in a systematic and planned manner. With regard to the importance of the opportunities ahead, it doesn't seem really to have the choice of doing otherwise in this respect.

Instead of constructing the model for the new light rail network on a basis of demand (following the present travel needs and the known short term developments), it could be set up in a proactive way, as an instrument to remodel the diffuse pattern of spreading into a more coherent and sustainable spatial structure. In such way, the envisaged regional transport system could become a major lever for realizing the "de-concentrated bundling" aimed for in the Spatial Structure Plan Flanders (RSV) (ARP, 1998).


This proposal draws on two basic questions as research hypothesis:

1. Is it possible to design a performant public transport network within the strongly fragmented spatial structure of Flanders that enhances significant long term economic, social and environmental benefits for the society at large?
2. Can this regional network of public transport act as a lever to restructure the suburbanized spatial structure of Flanders in the long term?

In order to test this hypothesis, different research groups at universities are selected to do profound research around this topic hereby including not only spatial planning and mobility questions but also socio-economical and environmental issues. This research project is currently being done by OSA (KU Leuven), BUUR, IMOB (University of Hasselt), MOSI-T (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Lab'Urba (Université Paris-Val de Marne).
Effective start/end date1/07/1031/12/13

    Research areas

  • Traffic Safety, Environmental Auditing, Sustainable Development, Life Cycle, Environmental Management, Analysis, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Human Ecology, Environment & Health, Environmental Impact Assessment, Life Cycle Analysis, Environmental Care Systems, Urban Ecology

    Flemish discipline codes

  • (Bio)chemical engineering
  • Civil and building engineering
  • Economics and business
  • Biological sciences
  • Health sciences
  • Chemical sciences

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