Image: Port of Zeebrugge

Expansion of rail capacity for the port of Zeebrugge

Infrabel, the manager of the Belgian railway network, is investing 11 million euros in the expansion and modernisation of the rail connection to the port of Zeebrugge. The work should be completed by the end of November.

The most important intervention is the redesign and renewal of the strategic railway junction in Dudzele, a polder village between Bruges and Zeebrugge. Two important railway lines intersect here. One leads in the direction of Lissewege to the western harbour (L51A), the other to Heist, Duinbergen, Knokke and the eastern port (L51B). In 2019, some 38,000 trains passed this junction.

New bills

Dudzele gets five new switches. The current three will be replaced and two more will be added. A big advantage, according to Infrabel, is that the new switches last twice as long as the current ones. They are over 100 meters long, making them the largest of their kind on a traditional railway line. They are tailor-made in Bascoup, the only company in Belgium that produces track switches.

The new 112-tonne switches are mounted on concrete sleepers. To be able to bear the extra weight, Infrabel is laying a new foundation that greatly improves the stability of the swampy subsoil. The new switches are made in such a way that they produce less noise than the old types when trains run over them. This limits the noise nuisance for the neighborhood.

Straight track

At the same time, two curves in the track will be straightened over a length of one km. This ensures a smoother flow of train traffic. In addition, Infrabel will renew 6 kilometers of overhead lines, adapt the signaling to the new configuration and lay 700 meters of new track.

The last major railway works in Dudzele date from 1980. The existing infrastructure is now due for replacement in order to continue to guarantee safe and smooth train traffic. At the same time, Infrabel is redesigning the rail infrastructure preparing for a possible capacity expansion in the future. This should create  space for the freight trains to the port and also for passenger transport to the coast.

Freight traffic temporarily limited

Lines 51A and 51B are the only rail access lines to and from the port of Zeebrugge.  Infrabel and the port of Zeebrugge have worked out a plan to keep the trains running as much as possible during the work. At specific times, The work will be temporarily halted for four hours to allow as many freight trains as possible to run on one track.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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