Belgium grants additional 357 million for rail, mostly benefitting freight

Source: RailFreight
Date: 25th February 2022

The Belgian government is making another 357 million euros available for the modernisation of the railway network, a fund that primarily serves to support freight rail transport. This is according to the infrastructure manager Infrabel.

The new fund is in addition to the classical investment endowment already planned for the next 3 years (2022-2024), and includes two envelopes that are part of the Belgian and European recovery plans (RRF).

The envelopes
In the period 2022-2024, Infrabel will invest 2.497 billion euros from the traditional grant in the safety, punctuality and capacity of the rail network. In addition to this amount, approved by the company’s management bodies, two additional envelopes will be released for the period 2022-2024: one of 135 million euros through the European RRF funds and one of 222 million euros through the Belgian recovery plan (for 2022-2024).

The European funds are mainly used for the necessary further modernisation of the rail network. In the Belgian recovery plan, 180 of the 222 million euros is intended to support freight rail transport and the remaining balance will go to the works on the Axis 3 (Brussels-Luxembourg line).

Modal shift
The approval by the company’s management bodies of Infrabel’s 2022-2024 investment budget is an important step in making rail more attractive and promoting the modal shift. These additional investments are fully in line with the “Roadmap 2030”, the plan of the rail freight operators sector to realise the ambition of the federal government: doubling the volume of goods transported by rail by 2030.

This would take as many as 42,000 trucks off the road by 2030. In addition, it also ensures that 1.5 million tons less C02 will be emitted annually. In order to stay on track, Infrabel is currently negotiating an ambitious investment plan until 2032. This should enable the company to vigorously take further steps towards a modal shift in Belgium.

“These investments will also support our economy”, Infrabel notes. “The companies connected to the rail will be able to benefit from this. Just like the construction sector and the manufacturers of railway equipment, which provide thousands of jobs in Belgium. A recent study by Deloitte shows that 1 euro in rail investment yields almost 3 euros for the domestic economy.”

131.4 million for freight rail transport and ports in Flanders
Most of the extra funds will go to investments in ports. In the port of Antwerp, the contribution of 47.45 million euros will be used, among other things, to renovate the Antwerp-North marshalling yard and also to invest in other port facilities.

Approximately 22.6 million euros will go to renovation works on the switches and rail bundles in Ghent-Zeehaven and to rail renovation works in the port of Zeebrugge (2 million euros). In addition, investments are also being made in the safety equipment of the Kennedy rail tunnel on the Antwerp-Ghent line, good for 15.3 million euros. These investments will help many industrial companies across the country.

Other projects
In addition, 1.82 million euros will go to the Genk-Goederen terminal, an investment that will benefit several companies in the industrial zone of Genk-South, such as Aperam, Arcelor-Mittal and Staal Magazijn Limburg.

The works to make the mixed passenger/freight lines between Ghent and Bruges four-track will receive an additional injection of 23.9 million euros to install the additional tracks in 2026 instead of in to be put into service by 2028. In addition, another 20.34 million euros will be invested to remove the temporary speed limits on the main freight axes in Flanders.

45.6 million for rail freight transport in Wallonia
In the south of the country, 18.42 million euros of the Belgian recovery plan will go towards the renewal or construction of connections needed for heavy industry and logistics, which will create or secure hundreds of additional jobs.

This is the case, inter alia, in Philippeville, where the “Les Petons” quarry (Solvay) has a rail connection, as well as in Obourg and Antoing (connections with Holcim), in Yves-Gomezée and Aisemont (connections with Carmeuse) or in the Trilogiport of Liège or the terminal of Bierset-Voroux (Liège Airport).

To the Luxembourg border
Approximately 6.5 million euros will be used to improve the flow of train traffic on the Athus-Maas axis, which connects the Belgian ports via Namur and Bertrix to the Luxembourg border.

Finally, 20.65 million euros will also be invested in order to impose speed limits in as few areas of the rail network as possible due to the aging rail infrastructure.

A prudent operating budget for 2022
The board of directors and the federal government have also approved the operating budget for 2022. In line with the desire of the federal government to invest more and at the same time to reduce operating costs, Infrabel will temporarily spend 67 million euros less of its operating budget in 2022, while maintaining a large degree of service provision to our customers.

Pending the conclusion of a performance contract between the State and Infrabel for the period 2023-2032, 2022 remains a transition year in this respect. This contract, which is currently under negotiation, defines the infrastructure manager’s level of performance, as well as the level of funding that the State makes available to it to achieve that level of performance. Infrabel is also taking the necessary actions to increase its operational efficiency and make use of it in order to meet the expectations of both its customers and its shareholder.

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