The upper chamber of the Dutch parliament expressed its willingness to put an end to airline routes between Amsterdam and Brussels, stressing that the train journey between the two capitals is just as quick and more environmentally friendly. The Dutch vote has been echoed in Belgium, where some politicians are also speaking out for rail transport being favoured over short distances.
Currently, passengers pay no tax on airline fuel or VAT on airline tickets, stressed Stefaan Van Hecke (Groen) and Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V). Air travel being taxed to a lower degree than train journeys means that it sometimes works out cheaper.
“As an economic model this is untenable,” said Mr Van Hecke. He would like airlines to stop selling cut-price tickets with the introduction of fair competition between trains and aeroplanes. To achieve this, it would be appropriate both to invest in better infrastructure and improved rail frequency, he went on.
The CD&V very much agrees with these ideas. An inquiry ought to be conducted upon the possibilities for replacing short-haul flights with train journeys, says Vincent Van Peteghem, going further in this regard. For change to happen the authorities, rail and airline players but also airports, should develop a common vision to improve high-speed train links between certain cities.
At European level, Belgium argued on Tuesday for the introduction of taxation of commercial airlines. The discussion will resume in the coming months and proposals will be put forward in the forthcoming European Commission meeting.