2019 sees the introduction of a new regulatory framework for Regional SUMPs in Flanders (BE),

Transport Regions to manage SUMPs mobility challenges

For almost twenty years the northern region of Belgium, Flanders, has provided leading guidance on local SUMP support. This year they introduce a new approach across fifteen transport regions. The regions include cities and municipalities within spatial influence areas that will co-operate to provide user-oriented sustainable mobility in planning, implementation and evaluation policy. This will lead to (basic) accessibility and become the backbone of Regional SUMPs.


Basic accessibility is key

Basic accessibility means the ability to conduct important social functions using demand-oriented transport system that optimises resources. To achieve this the Flemish government aim to integrate their transport system based on combined mobility. Basic mobility consists of four transport layers, each layer will have a role and each layer will complement the others as follows:

  • The train network will act as the backbone of international, inter regional and intercity public transport,
  • The main public transport (PT) corridors, buses and trams, will act as the core network connecting residential areas, attraction nodes and suburbs,
  • The additional transport network will supply the core network, enabling bus lines and include peak hour offer for commuter and school transport, and
  • Customised transport-on-demand, consisting of private and public services, will offer neighbourhood oriented initiatives. These may include sharing initiatives, collective taxis and MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) take-up. 


The roadmap to optimisation

Flemish mobility policy is being radically re-drafted within this new regulatory framework. It will replace the original ground breaking principle of ‘basic mobility’ because it was found to be inefficient and expensive.  In the 90’s ‘basic mobility’ transformed the ‘right to mobility’ into extensive regular supply oriented bus offer and later developed into L-SUMP (local transport plans) regulatory frameworks that transferred competencies in local sustainable mobility to municipalities and cities at a local level.

Flanders became a forerunner of the current EU SUMP policy. There are over 300 L-SUMPs in place and many of them are second and third generation SUMPs. The Flemish city of Ghent is very progressive and Sint-Niklaas is a CIVITAS PROSPERITY project champion city.

Despite the success of the L-SUMPs, in creating a mental policy shift and a common spirit of co-operation between stakeholders, general modal shift expectations have not yet been achieved. Further, sustainable modes continue to compete with each other (e.g. PT with cycling). Therefore the integration of modes and the co-ordination of spatial, mobility, climate and other policies, as well as vision with practise (e.g. investments, exploitation, services etc.), sill have scope for improvement. 

The new framework is more than a concept for efficient organisation of PT in Flanders, it will introduce fifteen transport regions to plan and implement future regional mobility plans (R-SUMPs), the L-SUMP framework/decree will be replaced and the ‘mandatory’ character of L-SUMP will no longer be required.


Pilot projects

When the framework was developed, between 2016 and 2018, stakeholders expressed concern that the new approach may “Throw the baby out with the bathwater” because there were too many uncertainties to be addresses. Therefore pilot projects were introduced in five different transport regions and evaluated.  The remaining transport regions followed in the latter half of 2018 with the introduction of more regional mobility plans and new public transport networks.


Living proof of the roadmap

Antwerp has one of the most advanced pilot results. The transport region is vast and diverse with 33 municipalities, it is over 1000 square kilometres in size, has a population of over one million, the growing demand for mobility is a major challenge and the mobility system is curtailed by its limits within the (international harbour) region of Antwerp.

The Antwerp vision towards 2030 is long term and the SUMP perspective and program is elaborated with measures and projects that aim to achieve (multimodal) accessibility. In addition, the regional transport council also aim to achieve a 50/50 modal split to consist of 50% car trips and 50% (maximum) by foot, bicycle or PT.

The vision was developed in conjunction with various stakeholders including cities, municipalities, mobility actors involved and contributions from civil organisations. 


Ten shared ambitions

The user is central to the Antwerp Transport Region vision, every trip must be safe, smooth, reliable and convivial. This means that networks, hubs and mobility services must offer comfort, quality and safety. The ten ambitions are as follows:

  1. Towards a mental shift and integral mobility management.
  2. Core reinforcement: proximity, living quality and at a human scale.
  3. Freedom of (modal) choice: nodes, travel experience and seamless transport.
  4. Towards use of modes: improving sharing and MaaS.
  5. A-net:  fast, reliable and frequently travelling within the transport regions.
  6. Quality jump of functional cycling network: safe, fast and comfortable.
  7. Regional parking strategy, local differentiations.
  8. Priority flooding headways and improving connections with core transport network.
  9. Improving multimodal logistic networks.
  10. Dynamic traffic management for optimising demand.

In tandem with the ten ambitions, the region will co-operate on the following five shared objectives to become a:

  1. Promising region: The region develops from the interests of its inhabitants. For this reason the Antwerp region will continue to be an attractive place to settle. 
  2. Prosperous region: Good accessibility is a vehicle for prosperity for everyone in the region. Companies will want to establish themselves in the region, create jobs and have the ability to grow.
  3. Healthy region: Health and environmental quality form the basis for further growth.
  4. Smart region: Smarter organisation of mobility at an acceptable price.
  5. Versatile region: Strengthen and connect local qualities.


Author: Patrick Auwerx, Mobiel 21

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More information – on both the new Flanders SUMP regulatory framework/Decree on basic accessibility and the Antwerp Regional SUMP Road Map 2030 will be provided via a new CIVITAS PROSPERITY Innovation Brief, planned for end of January 2019.

Sources used: https://www.basisbereikbaarheid.be (NL), https://www.duurzame-mobiliteit.be (NL) Mobiel 21 is a member of this NGO network. 

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