Traffic experts in Belgium are saying the subject matter of a humorous ad produced by the Belgian national railway company NMBS is not a laughing matter. The ad nominates the country's traffic jams as a candidate for UNESCO world heritage status because they are uniquely Belgian.
The video shows a pompous British actor standing on a bridge overlooking a traffic jammed road, praising the "splendor" of Belgian traffic jams, followed by a link for a petition to UNESCO.
The experts say that although the video was meant as a joke, the problem it portrays is serious. Antwerp and Brussels, headquarters to the European Union, were the most congested cities in Europe and North America, according to a 2014 traffic study released by data organization INRIX. The study estimated drivers in Brussels waste 83 hours a year in traffic jams.
The experts say not only is traffic congestion a nuisance and time waster, it also poses serious health risks with emissions from vehicles. They say the traffic problems arise from poor road planning, generous company car policies and growing suburbanization.
Cathy Macharis, a mobility professor at the Free University of Brussels, says 15 percent of all cars and 50 percent of new cars sold in Belgium were company cars. She says in many cases, employees who have company cars don’t even need them for work. Employees prefer having a car rather than a bonus or raise because they don’t have to pay tax on the car, but would on a monetary reward.
The experts say that although the spoof ad on road traffic jams was produced by NMBS, it is a major contributor to the problem. They say Belgian trains are infamous for delays and overcrowding which drive people to use their cars.
This has not gone unnoticed by a yet to be identified group which has launched a counter ad and petition to that of NMBS’s. That ad calls for Belgium's train delays to be UNESCO world heritage listed, showing footage of passengers delayed and waiting at a train station. The footage is sound tracked with tear-jerking music from string instruments.