The Belgian rail network is one of the busiest rail networks in Europe. Capacity on our network is currently approaching saturation at several junctions. To further develop the rail network into a sustainable means of transport and to be able to continue to meet the needs of both our customers and end-users, we are investing in a number of major projects to expand capacity.
This is a huge challenge for the future. We not only need to provide a suitable response to the growing demand for rail mobility, we also have to take into account the increasing pressure on financial resources in the current climate of cost-savings. Our investment strategy focuses primarily on mobility in and around Brussels, the principal rail axes in Belgium and the continued growth of the Belgian ports, which are major hubs for our economy.
active passenger operators on the belgian rail network
Thalys, independent operator from 31/03/2015
freight operators admitted on the belgian rail network
On 10 June 2012 the Diabolo rail connection was officially inaugurated. Thanks to this northern rail access, the airport is now directly connected to the major rail lines of the national network and, via the international rail axes, also to a number of European cities. In 2005 Infrabel had already opened the Nossegem Curve, a new direct rail link between Brussels Airport and Leuven. This enables Brussels Airport to develop into one of the airports with the best rail access in Europe. The Diabolo line is fully equipped with ETCS technology.
To relieve some of the pressure on rail mobility in and around Brussels, we have expanded capacity on the main rail lines to and from the capital. A key link in this Regional Express Network is the new Schuman-Josaphat tunnel, that connects rail lines 161 (Brussels-Ottignies) and 26 (Halle-Vilvoorde). This new rail link will not only relieve pressure on the Brussels North-South rail link, but will also soon provide a direct link between the European Quarter and Brussels Airport.
In 2009 we saw the full commissioning of the Belgian high-speed network. This makes us the first European country to have a complete, border-to-border high-speed network. This puts Brussels at the centre of Europe like never before...
The high-speed network consists of 3 axes, where high-speed lines in their own beds have been integrated with the existing rail network. The first axis, HSL1, links Brussels (Halle) to the French border. The second axis - towards Germany - is made up of HSL 2 alongside the E40 motorway (Leuven-Liège), and HSL 3 (between Liège and the German border). The third axis to the Netherlands consists of HSL 4, linking Antwerp to the Dutch border.
Infrabel is laying two new tracks and the platforms for them at the rear of Mechelen Station. This capacity expansion is an extension of the Diabolo project and confirms the central position of Mechelen in the Belgian railway network. Thanks to the Mechelen rail bypass, trains will be able to pass through Mechelen station at higher speeds and we can guarantee train traffic will run more smoothly on the Brussels - Mechelen - Antwerp - Netherlands route. The rail bypass is also useful for the Regional Express Network that will contribute to a significant improvement in mobility in and around Brussels.
Construction work on the railway bypass started in June 2013, and the project is being coordinated by our subsidiary TUC RAIL. The total estimated investment by Infrabel for the Mechelen rail bypass is EUR 170 million.
The Brussels-Luxembourg axis connects the Belgian capital with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg via rail lines 161 (Brussels-Namur) and 162 (Namur-Sterpenich). This railway link is not just an important access axis towards the South. It also serves as a route within the Rotterdam-Antwerp-Basel/Lyon international freight corridor. Infrabel is modernising the rail infrastructure of this strategic European rail axis and is re-electrifying the entire line. The aim: to reduce the travel time between Brussels-Luxembourg station and the Luxembourg border by 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the train type.
Since February 2015, the new single-track Blauwe Toren viaduct at Bruges station has been helping to improve regularity and capacity for passenger and freight trains running to and from the coast. Just outside Bruges station the rail line towards the coast divides into a number of lines, where trains between Blankenberge, Zeebrugge, Knokke-Heist and Bruges needed to cross paths on a single level. During peak hours, and in the high season, this busy rail junction had a visible impact on the punctuality of rail traffic in the region.
Thanks to the viaduct, the track from Blankenberge to Bruges now passes above the Bruges-Zeebrugge rail line. The trains are therefore no longer crossing paths on the same level. This is not only safer, it is also better for the punctuality and smooth running of the local train traffic. With this viaduct, up to 30% more trains can be deployed on busy days without having to lay extra track.
So it is also good news for the development of the port of Zeebrugge! Thanks to a number of investment projects Infrabel is increasing the rail capacity in and around the port area. This is to actively support the future growth of rail transport in the port and to allow this major centre of economic activity to open up to the rest of the continent.