Busy rush hour expected as protesting farmers, builders take to the streets

Tractors on the A15 highway between Gorinchem junction and Ridderkerk, 18 December 2019
Tractors on the A15 highway between Gorinchem junction and Ridderkerk, 18 December 2019Rijkswaterstaat, @RWSverkeersinfoTwitter

Motorists must take longer travel time into account on Wednesday morning due to protests by farmers and construction workers. The construction workers are planning go-slow actions on Dutch highways and provincial roads. A court banned the farmers from blocking distribution centers, but other types of actions are planned.

"It will not be a black rush hour, but it will be a busy one", Heleen de Geest of travelers' organization ANWB said to NOS. Large traffic jams are expected on the A9 and the A4 from Alkmaar to The Hague, and on the A13 towards The Hague. Access roads to the highways will likely also be congested. "We advise people who need to be on the road to check in advance: what is my route like?"

The protesters gathered at 6:00 a.m. at seven assembly points - in Alkmaar, Berkel en Rodenrijs, Tilburg, Helmond, Born, Apeldoorn and Assen. At 6:30 a.m. they were told where they are going, and they started heading that way at 7:00 a.m.

The farmers planned to protest at supermarkets' distribution centers on Wednesday. But after the court banned this action, action group Farmers Defense Force called on its members to stay away from distribution centers, in order to avoid any risk of a fine - 100 thousand euros per blocked location. But as the farmers already arranged their days to protest on Wednesday, they will just perform other actions, according to NOS. 

Farmers already protested at the Binnenhof on Tuesday evening as the Senate voted on the government's nitrogen act. The farmers there told the broadcaster that they wanted to "send a signal".

Construction workers will be protesting on the roads on Wednesday, Jaco van den Berg of action group Bouw in Verzet said to the broadcaster. "No actions at distribution centers, but go-slow actions on provincial roads and highways." He added that the farmers are welcome to join them. 

Both the farmers and the construction workers are protesting against the nitrogen crisis. The Dutch government had to scramble to cut nitrogen emissions wherever possible after the Council of State declared the Nitrogen Approach Program invalid earlier this year.

The Nitrogen Approach Program allowed the government to compensate for nitrogen emissions caused by construction projects at a later date. Without the program, nitrogen emissions must first be reduced before new projects can cause more emissions. This ruling brought hundreds of construction projects to a halt, leaving the many construction companies behind them in trouble. 

The farmers believe they are being hit too hard by the nitrogen measures.