Uplace = a completely private investment
Last weekend, Professor Paul De Grauwe reacted to the arrival of Uplace by saying that the public authorities are prioritising the wrong policy; he even used the term ‘crony capitalism’. Perhaps Professor Emeritus Paul De Grauwe left Flanders rather too long ago to know the exact facts about our project, so maybe that is why he made these statements. We can only assume that his statements were based on the unfounded rumour that the government was going to spend EUR 480 million on making Uplace accessible. This simply isn’t true. Uplace is of course covering all the investments necessary for the project. Uplace has taken care of the remediation of the land concerned (EUR 5 million); it has paid all the costs relating to accessibility specific to the project (firm agreements with both the Flemish Government and the commune of Machelen); and it has contributed EUR 1.1 million to an urban renewal fund for use by Vilvoorde and Machelen. Uplace’s total investments amount to more than EUR 20 million. It hasn’t asked for anything and is receiving absolutely NOTHING from the government. Here is more background information on the mobility investments which may help to clarify the issue: The Flemish Government and the commune of Machelen are indeed investing in mobility in the Flemish Noordrand (northern region) at the moment. These investments include both public transport and changes to the road infrastructure. The following measures are specifically programmed for the 250-hectare Vilvoorde-Machelen reconversion zone where Uplace will be located, as well as the planned Vilvoorde hospital, numerous residential and SME projects:
- The construction of the Kerklaan railway station, on the border between Vilvoorde and Machelen, within the framework of the RER network.
- The redevelopment of Woluwelaan and bringing into service the existing entry/exit complex on the Ring (sub-project 1)
- The redevelopment of many streets in the currently neglected reconversion zone.
The ‘Ring tram’ line between Jette and Brussels Airport, which connects Vilvoorde town centre with the airport, as well as stopping at Uplace, is also important for the entire Vilvoorde-Machelen reconversion zone. All these measures, which benefit everyone, were planned years ago, a long time before the idea of Uplace first arose. They are aimed at optimising the accessibility – both by car and public transport – of the entire Flemish Noordrand, which is of crucial importance for Flanders’ economy. The mayors of Vilvoorde and Machelen both recognise the importance of these measures for their cities and have asked for them be implemented as soon as possible. A small element within the context of the substantial investments made by the Flemish Government is the arrangement concluded between Uplace and the Government stipulating that in the scope of the redevelopment of the Woluwelaan, a bridge and a tunnel must be built near the Uplace site for easy access to the Uplace project, without disrupting the through traffic on Woluwelaan. The agreement with the Flemish Government also stipulates that Uplace must pay the entire costs for the bridge and the tunnel, up to the last euro cent. In other words, the Flemish Government and the commune of Machelen will be making the planned mobility investments anyhow, because they benefit the entire Flemish periphery; and they will be investing EUR 0 to make the Uplace project accessible. Uplace will obviously be paying for the project entirely out of its own pocket and, what is more, it will also be making a direct and substantial contribution to works that will benefit everyone. The opinion of Professor Paul De Grauwe is based on the wrong information and is therefore irrelevant.