Stalled railway projects in Belgium gradually resume
As of this week, the Belgian infrastructure manager Infrabel and its subsidiary TUC RAIL are gradually resuming a number of rail projects. Due to the corona crisis, all non-essential railway works in the country were put on hold in early March.
Last weekend Infrabel resumed the work on lines 53 to Dendermonde in Mechelen, a busy route for both passenger and freight trains. Five out of ten tracks are out of service due to the work. While work has stalled in recent months and weeks, according to Infrabel, a “meticulously thought out plan” matured behind the scenes to make up for the backlog during the second half of the year. This will be done by restarting or relocating various strategic rail projects. This year, Belgium will also work during the construction holidays.
“Of course we do so with respect for the regulations on safety and social distancing. With this new planning, we avoid a knock-on effect with negative consequences and at the same time prevent a deluge of activities in 2021”, says Infrabel spokesman Thomas Baeken.
This year, there are three planned projects in Belgium that are closely intertwined and that must be carried out in a specific order. If this does not happen, other projects will be delayed for years, says Infrabel. This includes a tunnel and a new railway branch in Schaerbeek near Brussels. Work is underway from May 30 to July 3 and from August 1 to October 12.
Delaying these projects for more than a month frees up space in the planning to first renew the Jan Bogaerts bridges and the railway line between Mechelen and Dendermonde (Line 53). The work on the tunnel and Line 53 cannot be carried out at the same time because this railway line is one of the possible diversions for train traffic during the work in Schaerbeek.
The electromechanics at the Jan Bogaerts bridges in Kapelle-op-Den Bos need to be modernised. Part of the work had already been completed before the corona crisis broke out. The rest of the bridge would be finished over the Easter holidays. The new schedule now runs from July 4 to July 26.
To do this safely, the entire route must be closed. As a result, no train traffic is possible on the Mechelen-Dendermonde railway line. The infrastructure manager takes the opportunity to simultaneously renew the complete line of rails, sleepers and ballast. The L53 crosses the station of Mechelen. Here a switch has to be renewed at the exit of the station.
The third project is a new rail bypass at the back of the same station Mechelen. This new connection provides extra capacity, which also allows trains to pass through the station faster and is also the final piece of the Belgian high-speed line.