Brussels Refreshed – Imagine that!

Published: March 4, 2015


Tractebel Engineering mobility experts investigate and imagine all the ways that Brussels could be moving by 2040 and share their forward-looking study with the general public; while establishing benchmarks, data and a valuable global view for city mobility worldwide.


Beyond a technical study, the Mobil2040 study was all about mentally preparing the way for a great, global urban and transport change. Read more.


Contemplating on a broad mobility and lifestyle level what the future might hold for a city like Brussels and its citizens by 2040, required investigation of “clues of change” and multiple mobility trends and concepts. Read more.


The opportunities for urban change leveraged by improved mobility are huge, but difficult for people to picture – unless you find ways to spark the public’s imagination!  Read more.

  • Viaduc 'Hermann-Debroux' in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 Viaduc 'Hermann-Debroux' in 2040 ©Mobil 2040
  • A new street in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 A new street in 2040 ©Mobil 2040
  • Brussels 'Royal' (Schaerbeek station) in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 Brussels 'Royal' (Schaerbeek station) in 2040 ©Mobil 2040




The project, carried out for Brussels Mobility (Ministry of Transport of the Brussels Region), began with a first investigative study in 2010, looking at the evolution of transport in the city between 2000 and 2010. Based on those findings, Tractebel Engineering (partnered with Espaces-Mobilités) was asked to take the project further, due to the fact that Metropolitan Brussels (the city and its satellite urban centres), while relatively small compared to many metropolis, is one of, if not the most, congested cities in Europe when it comes to traffic and mobility. On top of a growing population (predicted to grow by 20 % or 200,000 people in coming years), that needs space to live, work and move, another 300,000 people currently come into the city every day. Increasing pollution, and the fact that the wealth and quality of life for city dwellers is generally dropping, are also concerning issues.

Change is needed and better mobility is a first step to leveraging change in other integrated urban systems to create a more attractive, open, healthier, prosperous and accessible city.

But implementing and investing in such change will need public buy-in. In order to get people of all ages and situations thinking more about mobility and concepts like; local city living, the value of reclaimed public spaces, innovative travel and the future use of technologies to better serve how they live and function in and around the city of Brussels – the Mobil2040 programme was devised.

“As mobility experts, we were just the facilitator to start the concept rolling that there are a lot of things likely to change in coming years… The value of Mobil2040 is that lessons learned will add, and are already contributing, to mobility projects in Brussels and other international cities.”
Salima Abu Jeriban – Senior Consultant Mobility – Urban and Regional Development – Tractebel Engineering (SSI)

  • Brussels 'Campus' (Etterbeek station) in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 Brussels 'Campus' (Etterbeek station) in 2040 ©Mobil 2040
  • Brussels canal in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 Brussels canal in 2040 ©Mobil 2040




The interaction of people with their city and the general approach to mobility changes with each generation. The study starting point involved identifying these “clues of change”; for example, the fact that today fewer adolescents are interested in owning a car and are taking their driver’s license much later; the idea of walking or cycling around a city and using public transport already being more “normal” to them than to older generations.

Other clues are found in technical developments like smartphone apps or next generation vehicles; from electric cars and minibuses, to Google’s driverless car, to cargo bicycles designed to pull greater pay-loads more easily.

Merging clues and behavioural trends with existing statistics, models and predicted socio-economic scenarios, the Mobil2040 study also looked at the many futuristic mobility concepts emerging or being piloted in European cities (in Germany, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain) and others around the world, such as:

  • Housing developed specifically around main public transport routes, shared social-centres, green public spaces, gardens and amenities (local city living).
  • Pedestrian-friendly, car-free streets and city blocks connected by public transport and bicycle routes.
  • Smart work centres, satellite offices and shared-desk concepts for home or decentralised working
  • Safe, affordable taxi services devoted to transporting children to schools and activities.
  • Better use of waterways for goods and people transport.
  • Shared, centralised logistic centres for inner-city goods distribution: with increased shopping online and delivery services with cargo bike delivery services for lighter goods.
  • Shared car ownership/ electric vehicles and even driverless vehicles.
  • Bicycle superhighways.
  • Urban cable cars.
  • Reversible direction motorway lanes
  • More flexible/higher-frequency public transport schedules.
  • Smartphone apps allowing route planning and transport reservations.
  • Tax benefits for people; living close to their workplace; bicycling; using public transport.

Pulling everything together, a clearer picture of Brussel’s potential “refreshed” future emerged.

  • Boulevard du Jardin Botanique in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 Boulevard du Jardin Botanique in 2040 ©Mobil 2040
  • Brussels boulevard in 2040 ©Mobil 2040 Brussels boulevard in 2040 ©Mobil 2040
  • Urban cable cars ©Mobil 2040 Urban cable cars ©Mobil 2040




Increasingly relevant to mobility projects, part of the scope for the Tractebel Engineering team (working with communication experts ZOOO and Karamel Graphic Design) was to translate the potential they saw into pictures and communication tools:

  • Interactive website and blog
  • Social Media (Facebook, twitter, etc.)
  • Brochures and videos
  • A large-scale exhibition displayed around Brussels
  • A road-show was also taken into schools, universities and organizations to present and discuss ideas with the future adults and citizens of 2040.

These tools were used to show visually how some of the city’s most recognisable streets and squares might be transformed by 2040. To make it feel even more real, storyline descriptions via “futuristic testimonials” were created to explain what daily life and the benefits could be living in a refreshed Brussels metropolis from the point of view of; commuters, older people, young families, store-owners, professionals and the like. Across the board, the goal was to invite debate, stimulate discussions and answer questions; as important to spreading the word as it was to assessing and confirming knowledge of trends and attitudes.

Mobil2040 was well received, particularly by the younger target audience. Growing up in an era where communication devices and technologies improve daily, they more easily see a future where driverless cars, deliveries by aerial drones, cycling highways, careers in mobility assistance and centralised, community-operated neighbourhoods could be the norm… While Mobil2040 was not designed to produce an investment, political or strategic plan – ideally, now that people’s imaginations have been sparked, some of the ideas proposed will generate new studies and may even be implemented, especially those that are quite simple to do.
For example, taking a Mobil2040 idea to change train station names to be clearer about their location; “Etterbeek” station, which supports the city’s two Universities, could be renamed “Brussels-Campus” – making it just that bit easier to navigate Brussels’ inner-city rail network. Step by step, change is on its way!

Global Value

“It is vital that engineers, geographers, technicians, and other professionals working on mobility issues keep an open mind toward a variety of approaches regarding the transportation of people and goods. The work done with the Mobil2040 team allows for the de-compartmentalisation of approaches and causes our interlocutors to question themselves on the future of mobility in Brussels. This step is essential before taking action.”
Jean-Paul Gailly, General Manager Bruxelles-Mobilité (Brussels Mobility)

Did you know?

If all the cars parked along Brussels’ streets on an average day were lined up, they would easily reach Madrid 1,500 km away; those city spaces taken up by static vehicles could be better used.

Mobility Matters

Other current mobility and urban planning projects for Tractebel Engineering include:

  • Accessibility improvement of all 37 RER (Z-stations) rail stations in Brussels, Belgium.
  • Grand Paris Express – automated metro lines and new generation stations – Paris, France.
  • First underground metro line for Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
  • Saclay Plateau (mobility) – Paris, France.
  • Alzette-Belval Eco-City – North France/Luxembourg

For more mobility and sustainable urban development references visit

More Information

Salima Abu JeribanSenior Consultant Mobility Urban and Regional Development – Tractebel Engineering (SSI)

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