4 years of renovation works on railway line to port of Antwerp

TUC Rail

For the next four year the harbour line to the port of Antwerp will be subjected to construction works and diversions, eventually making way for a new bridge. The railway bridge on Statiestraat in Ekeren will be replaced. This bridge is part of the main freight railway for the port of Antwerp and leads directly to the marshalling yard. Almost all freight trains are assembled in that yard.

Infrabel and its subsidiary TUC RAIL will soon start construction on the new railway bridge. The old bridge is at the end of its life and needs to be replaced. This is a so-called one-to-one replacement. The existing artwork will disappear and a new bridge will be built in exactly the same place. This will take almost four years.

The construction site is being phased and the infrastructure manager will build a diversion track locally to continue to guarantee smooth train traffic. In total, this involves an investment of more than 13 million. But, as the infrastructure manager says, this will eventually benefit the modal shift.

Freight gateway to the port of Antwerp

The railway bridge is located in a very strategic place and lifts the Mortsel-Haven van Antwerp (L27A) railway line over the Statiestraat and the Antwerp-Dutch border (L12) railway line. However, tt is an old bridge that has reached the end of its lifespan and now has to be replaced. Procrastination is no longer an option.

Because the steel bridge is so outdated, there is currently a temporary speed limit (of 60 instead of 90 km/h). Although the bridge is well inspected and maintained, maintaining this infrastructure is gradually reaching its limits. If Infrabel were not to replace the railway bridge, this threatens to put a heavy burden on freight rail transport for the PoA (Port of Antwerp).

Port of Antwerp

Working in phases for four years

Two strategic railway lines (L27A and L12) are involved in this renovation. These lines must never be closed simultaneously. The works will be carried out in phases to minimise disruption to train traffic.

The infrastructure manager will start the site layout and the first preparatory works at the beginning of February. The big advantage is that just next to the steel bridge of the Statiestraat there is another concrete bridge from a former work track. This infrastructure was used in the past for the construction of the high-speed line to the Netherlands.

The railway bridge on Statiestraat in Ekeren

First steps

The first work is therefore to renew the work track so that train traffic can be safely diverted. The trains can then always easily reach the port via this diversion track during the work. Only then will the actual demolition of the steel railway bridge of the Statiestraat begin.

After the existing bridge decks have been demolished, the railway embankment will be excavated and then the abutments and the central pier of the bridge will be completely renovated. Finally, the new concrete bridge decks will be put into place. For the Statiestraat this is with special vehicles that move the bridge parts into place centimeter by centimeter.

The bridge decks for the L12 are lowered by crane with the same surgical precision.
Because the existing noise barriers have to be removed during these works, temporary noise barriers will be placed. If everything goes according to plan, the new bridge will be ready by the end of the summer of 2025.

Low-noise railway bridge

The new railway bridge has several advantages. Compared to its predecessor, it will produce less noise. The existing bridge is made of steel and that causes quite a bit of noise nuisance when trains run over it. The new bridge is made of concrete and that material is quieter than steel.

In addition, transparent noise barriers will also be installed. The current bridge does not have these. The track on the future bridge will also be equipped with the new generation of rail pads. These are special rubber mats between the sleeper and the track that reduce the noise nuisance caused by train traffic by an average of 3 decibels. This innovation was developed in-house at Infrabel.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

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

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4 years of renovation works on railway line to port of Antwerp | RailFreight.com