Brussels airport noise policy approved

Night flights to continue under tougher restrictions, high-speed rail extension foreseen

The Belgian government has approved a noise reduction plan for Brussels airport, drawn up after the prime minister overruled attempts by his Green transport minister to ban night flights. The plan will now aim for the "longest possible period of quiet" during night hours.

Isabelle Durant's plan to close the airport to all traffic between 01.00 and 05.00 from 2003 (ENDS Daily 6 January) was swiftly contradicted by Guy Verhofstadt last month (ENDS Daily 13 January). Mr Verhofstadt said the new plan, approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday, was a "global and integrated policy" which would ensure the "necessary development" of the airport and a "methodical" reduction of noise nuisance.

Under the agreement, the noisiest aircraft will be grounded between 23.00 and 06.00 and tighter quotas will reduce total noise by 30% from 2003, despite a large projected increase in flights. Combined with a home insulation programme and land-use planning changes, the measures will halve the number of local residents subject to noise exceeding World Health Organisation guideline levels.

A new international high-speed "TGV" train link will be extended to the airport and the proportion of airport users arriving for flights by public transport will be raised from 18% to 40% by 2010. A nearby military airbase will be also be vacated to allow expansion of the airport.

Follow Up:
Belgian federal government, tel: +32 2 501 0211; see also the minutes of last Friday's cabinet meeting and articles in Le Soir.

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