Wednesday 22 September 2021

Road expansion no longer needed if home working trend continues: report


A number of major infrastructure projects may not have to be built if home working or hybrid working remains the trend, government environmental assessment agency PBL has suggested in a new report on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on housing, offices and mobility.

During lockdown a 20% drop in the number of kilometers travelled by road reduced congestion by 70%.

‘It may be wise to reconsider projects which will only be profitable in a situation of large mobility growth. Maybe smaller scale projects would be more feasible or perhaps they should be postponed, head researcher Edwin Buitelaar told broadcaster NOS.

Much will depend on the continuation of home working , the PBL said adding that more must be done to promote trend. ‘We have to hurry if we want to make the advantages of home working, such as a better life-work balance, less commuting and congestion, last. Otherwise people will pick up where they left off.’

Housing and offices

The effect of the pandemic on the housing market is limited, the researchers said. More people are leaving the big cities but that was a trend that had already begun to surface before the pandemic and is caused by high real estate prices.

Offices will not shrink in size because more people work from home, the PBL said, but they will be used differently, with more (online) meeting spaces and fewer shared complexes.

The PBL did not give any examples of infrastructure projects that may become surplus to requirements, but according to Delft University professor of transport policy Bert van Wee, two planned extensions of the A27, one of which threatens woodland near Utrecht, would fit the bill.

Van Wee also included the airport at Lelystad. ‘If we are going to fly structurally less it won’t be needed,’ he said.

In a reaction, the infrastructure ministry, which did not commission the report, said it had no plans to scrap the projects and said that the ministry’s own calculations showed they would still be needed to relieve the pressure on the road network.

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