Belgium Road Network

By | November 8, 2022

Belgium has a particularly dense road network, consisting of N-roads, A-roads, E-roads and incidental B-roads (“Bretelle”). The road network of Belgium is strongly integrated with that of the surrounding countries with several highway border crossings with neighboring countries. The Meer/Hazeldonk (E19) border crossing with the Netherlands is one of the busiest in Europe.

Motorways

According to wholevehicles, Belgium has a radial network of motorways, centered from Brussels and Antwerp. All major cities are served by highways. The network is relatively dense, but given the population density of the countryside, relatively many people live at a greater distance from a highway. All highways have an A number. Most also have an E number, which is the most commonly used in practice. The man in the street does not know the A number of most E-roads; these are rarely mentioned on a road sign (unless exceptionally no E number exists). In addition, R and B roads can also be developed as highways. The country also has quite a few express roads.

The Belgian highways are particularly busy in Flanders and around Brussels. Traffic jams occur every day there, especially in the Flemish diamond, the area between Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven. There are hardly any traffic jams in Wallonia, with the exception of sporadic traffic jams around the major cities (Liège, Charleroi).

A number of cities have a motorway ring that is at least three quarters round, such as Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Liège and Charleroi. These ring roads can have one number, such as the R0 around Brussels, but also several, such as the E25, E40 and E42 around Liège.

The E-roads (and some A-roads) are managed by the regions. This means, for example, that the E40 between Brussels and Liège changes road manager several times along the way, because the highway there seems to play a game with the Flemish/Walloon regional border.

Similarly, the Brussels-Capital Region is completely enclosed by the territory of the Flemish Region and because the outer ring of Brussels (R0) has been set up so large, it falls for the most part under the management of the Flemish Region (and partly also under Walloon management). This Brussels Ring in Brussels is only located on 3 lanes. On the Flemish part, the names of the cities are only indicated in Dutch, such that many people have already started looking for the direction for Mons while driving under a sign that says Bergen.

Regional roads

The N-roads are roads that are also managed by the regions. They often fulfill a regional function, although a number of N-roads run from Brussels to the national border, but in practice they are rarely traveled over great distances, because the highways are a faster alternative. Most N-roads also have a street name, which can differ per municipality. The current numbering was introduced in the 1980s; they were then also called regional roads, before that they were called “national roads”, therefore the prefix N.

The numbers 1 – 9 are radial roads from Brussels that lead to the national borders. The numbers 10, 20, 30, etc. complete this network. The two-digit (N11, N12, etc.) and three-digit numbers are regional roads that form the underlying network. These have obtained the number from the NIS code that applies per province. For example N1xx for Antwerp and N4x in East Flanders. The list was originally drawn up in French: 1 = province of Antwerp 2 = Brabant (split into Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant in 1995 – Brussels does not belong to a province) 3 = West Flanders 4 = East Flanders (note: East -Flanders is not located in the east of Flanders, but in the east of the old county of Flanders.The east of the Flanders region is Limburg) 5 = Hainaut 6 = Liège 7 = Limburg 8 = Luxembourg 9 = Namur.

Branches sometimes have a letter after them (such as N243a). Such roads are very short and fulfill a connecting function, for example to a highway.

Ring roads

The road numbers R0 to R73 are for ring roads. These ring roads do not have to be completely circular. In some cases they are more bypasses than real ring roads. Numbers 0 to 5 are located around large cities that were then referred to as agglomerations, such as the R0 around Brussels, the R1 and R2 around Antwerp, the R3 around Charleroi and the R4 around Ghent. These are often also (partially) developed as a highway.

Ring Roads in Belgium

Braces

A Bretelle (loop) is a road connecting a highway and another major highway. These have the prefix B. A number of these roads have been developed as highways. There are 12 suspenders in Belgium.

Braces in Belgium

European roads

Belgium is one of a number of countries in Europe that has numbered the motorway network primarily according to European roads. In addition, there are a number of E-roads that are not motorways, these are often less known and sometimes not signposted.

European roads in Belgium
E17 • E19 • E25 • E34 • E40 • E42 • E44 • E46 • E313 • E314 • E403 • E404 • E411 • E420 • E421 • E429

Toll roads

In Belgium, a toll has to be paid for the Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp. Since 1 April 2016, a kilometer charge applies to trucks. This charge replaces the Eurovignette.

Road management

In Belgium, the roads are managed by the regions; Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. All roads are therefore in fact regional roads, although in practice the motorways are seen separately from them. In addition, there are roads in the management of municipalities.

Road management was originally a federal matter and came under the Belgian Ministry of Public Works. With the state reform of 1988-1990, the competence was transferred to the regions and the Belgian ministry was abolished on 27 June 1990. The ministry has existed for 153 years and was founded in 1837. Secondary roads were originally partly under provincial management, these roads were called provincial roads, but could not be found in Brussels because there are no provinces there. Not all provinces have managed roads. As of 1 January 2009, the Flemish provincial roads have been transferred to the Flemish Region. In 2012, the provincial roads in Wallonia were transferred to the Walloon Region.

The Flemish road manager is the Roads and Traffic Agency (AWV), which was established in 2006 and has its origins in the Infrastructure Agency. AWV is an agency of the Ministry of Public Works. The Roads and Traffic Agency manages approximately 7,000 kilometers of road and almost as many kilometers of bicycle paths. Since the Spatial Structure Plan for Flanders of 1997, AWV has been working on the construction of 25 ‘missing links’. After 20 years, only 7 of these had been completed.

The Brussels road manager is Mobiel Brussel / Bruxelles Mobilité. This has its origins in the Equipment and Transport Administration, which was set up in January 1989 at the time of the creation of the Brussels-Capital Region.

The Walloon road authority is the Direction générale opérationelle Routes et Bâtiments. This is a directorate of the Ministère de l’Équipement et des Transports that has been in existence since 2008. The Société de Financement Complémentaire des infrastructures (SOFICO) was also established in 1994 to finance the construction of missing infrastructure.

History

Like other European countries in the region, Belgium also took steps towards the first motorways in the 1930s. In 1935 it was decided to build the highway from Brussels to Ostend, which in 1937 was included in Belgium’s first highway construction program. Unlike in the Netherlands and Germany, but similar to France, it was initially deployed on a single highway connection. In 1940, the first motorway in Belgium was opened to traffic, namely the E40between Jabbeke and Aalter over 28 kilometers. The great plans between Brussels and Ostend did not materialize because of the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1951, the second motorway opening of Belgium followed, an extension of the E40 to Drongen over 13 kilometers. Until 1956, only the E40 between Brussels and Ostend was completed, although a small section of A201 between Brussels and Zaventem was opened in 1954.

From 1958 the construction of the second long-distance highway started, namely the E313 from Antwerp to Liège and the border with Germany at Aachen. In 1964 this connection was completed and Belgium had two long-distance highways at its disposal. Furthermore, at that time, the first openings of the E411 from Brussels in the direction of Namur were carried out. The E40 around Liège was also the first motorway in Wallonia in 1964. The late construction of motorways in Wallonia is somewhat striking given the industrial history of this region. In 1967 the first motorway in western Wallonia opened, namely the E19/E42 around La Louvière. An important year was 1969, when much of the R1around Antwerp was opened and further construction of the R0 around Brussels started.

From 1970, the emphasis was clearly placed on the E17 between Antwerp and Lille in France. In that year, three segments of the E17 were already opened; at Sint-Niklaas, Ghent and Kortrijk. In 1971-1972, the E17 was completed in record time. The absolute best year for Belgian road construction was 1972, when 267 kilometers of new highway were opened. Other years did not come close to 1972 in terms of opening times. Coincidentally, 1972 was also for the Netherlandsthe best year of highway construction. In 1972 the E19 between Antwerp and Breda, the E40 between Brussels and Liège and the E42 between the French border and Liège were completed. Within a year, the Belgian network of long-distance highways began to take shape in earnest. In 1974, the E42 in western Wallonia was completed southeast of Tournai, as well as the E25 between the Dutch border and Liège. Between 1972 and 1978, all highway sections of the R0 around Brussels were also opened. In 1981 the E19 between Antwerp and Brussels was completed and the E411 reached beyond Namur.

From the 1980s, highway construction came to a halt. Most attention was paid to the completion of the E314 (first without E-status, namely as A2) between Leuven and Lummen and the highways in the Ardennes. In 1982 the E314 (A2) was completed and in 1988 the E411/E25 between Brussels and Luxembourg was completed. In 1990 the last links of the E25 opened around Bastogne. In the 1990s, some missing links were completed, such as the R2 and A12 in the Antwerp port area. The most famous achievement is the long delayed opening of the Francorchamps – Malmedy road section on the E42 in 1995.

From the mid-1990s, the pace of construction slowed to a virtual standstill. The most important achievements after 1995 were the completion of the E25 through Liège and the E429 between Tournai and Halle, both of which were opened in 2000. After 2000, no more motorways were opened in Belgium, until in 2013 a 1 kilometer section of the R8 opened in Kortrijk. From the mid-2000s, many Belgian highways were renovated, which was also much needed. Even the relatively new E25 and E411 in the Ardennes were in poor condition, but have since been renovated. From the 1980s onwards, the level of investment in the Belgian road network fell sharply, in the period 2010-2013 Belgium spent only 0.6% of GNP on infrastructure, the lowest level in Europe. The A11. opened in September 2017north of Bruges, thus making a contribution to opening up the coast from Antwerp.

Speed ​​limits

Belgium is the only country in Europe where the general speed limit can differ per region. This was first introduced in 2017 when Flanders lowered the general speed limit outside built-up areas from 90 to 70 km/h. In 2021, Brussels followed suit by lowering the general speed limit in built-up areas from 50 to 30 km/h. Exceptions are indicated with signs. If no maximum speed is indicated, then the general maximum speed applies for that road type, but this can differ per region, so there is no national standard.

The 120 km/h limit applies on all roads outside built-up areas, provided the road consists of two carriageways with at least two lanes each (2×2 or more). These roads do not have to have the status of a motorway or motorway for this, it can also occur on other roads.

Belgium also has motorways, but no speed limit follows from this as in the Netherlands.

Signage

Signposting is a regional competence in Belgium. Flanders and Wallonia each have their own guidelines and since around 2015, both regions have also been implementing their own renewal of signage that deviates from the usual national standards that previously existed.

Road safety

Year Road fatalities
2010 841
2011 862
2012 770
2013 724
2014 727
2015 755
2016 640
2017 620
2018 604
2019 620

Belgium as a whole

In Belgium there are significant regional differences in road safety. The number of road deaths per 1 million inhabitants is significantly higher in Wallonia than in Flanders, but Flanders also scores relatively poorly compared to most other countries in the region. In 2015, 755 road deaths occurred in Belgium, or 67 per 1 million inhabitants. This is higher than the Netherlands, where in 2015 there were 621 road deaths (37 per 1 million inhabitants). France (54 per 1 million inhabitants), Germany (43 per 1 million inhabitants) and the United Kingdom (26 per 1 million inhabitants) These countries have a lower proportion of road deaths.

Unlike in many Western European countries, Belgium has not yet experienced a stagnation of the decline in the number of road deaths, the number of road deaths decreases almost every year, but Belgium is at a higher level than the neighboring countries.

Flanders

In 2015, there were 315 road deaths in Flanders. This equates to 49 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants. Flanders therefore has significantly safer roads than Wallonia.

Wallonia

In Wallonia, there were 291 road deaths in 2015, or 81 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants. Wallonia thus achieves significantly worse results than Flanders and Wallonia is also one of the least safe regions in Europe; many Eastern European countries have overtaken Wallonia in terms of the number of road deaths per 1 million inhabitants.

Brussels

In 2015, 21 road deaths occurred in the Brussels-Capital Region. This equates to 18 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, but because Brussels is a city, it cannot be compared with larger regions such as Flanders and Wallonia, nor with neighboring countries. However, a comparison can be made with the German city-state of Berlin, where in 2015 there were 48 road deaths, or 13 per 1 million inhabitants.

Belgium Road Network