The Graz and Wels Xpress. Photo credit: Lineas

Flood aftermath: Infrabel in search for alternative routes on the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor

The Graz and Wels Xpress. Photo credit: Lineas.

Last week’s flood disaster, which damaged large parts of the Wallonian railway in Belgium, also paralysed the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor. Infrabel examines alternative routes for the strategic rail freight corridor, but the options are very limited.

The damage to the Belgian railway, caused by last week’s floods, is concentrated in southern Belgium, in the provinces of Liège and Namur. The important North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor runs through these provinces, connecting the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent with southern Europe.

Main route damaged by flooding

The flooding has severely damaged multiple stretches on this route. For example, the L139 line between Sint-Joris-Weert and Ottiginies will be operational from 2 August at the earliest. According to Infrabel’s schedule, the L154 line between Dinant and Beauraing will be out of operation until 9 August.

Alternative detour routes also blocked

Many alternative detour routes are also impassable for the time being. Repair work on the L161 line between Ottignies and Gembloux and Gembloux and Namur will last until 3 August and 26 July, respectively. The L162 line between Rochefort-Jemelle and Poix-St.-Hubert is also an alternative, but this section is out of operation until 9 August.

Diversion via Paris investigated

Infrabel says it is investigating alternative options and is in talks with customers and foreign infrastructure managers. For example, one of the options that it looks at is a diversion via Paris. “To go from the Flemish ports to France and Italy, you can also go via Kortrijk (from Zeebrugge and Ghent) or via Ghent (from Antwerp) to Mouscron to cross the French border to Lille and continue to Paris”, says Infrabel spokesman Thomas Baeken. “From Paris, you can then go to Dijon and so on to Basel/Switzerland. From Paris, you can also go to Lyon and via the Alps to Turin in Italy”, he continues.

The spokesperson indicates that these are long diversion routes and certainly not a feasible alternative. “Train drivers need line knowledge, sometimes there are capacity limitations, sometimes there are tonnage limitations, and sometimes you need double traction.”

Rail operator Lineas also hit

The North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor is a crucial route for several Belgian rail operators. The same applies to Lineas. The rail freight operator announced earlier this week that half of its freight trains had come to a halt due to the flood disaster and damage to the tracks.

In a post on LinkedIn, Lineas CEO Geert Pauwels says that the company has never had to deal with such a logistical challenge before.

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Author: Jerom Rozendaal

Jerom Rozendaal is our Belgium correspondent

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