ProRail and Infrabel to improve rail infrastructure at the North Sea Port

Image: North Sea Port

ProRail and Infrabel, the Dutch and Belgian rail infrastructure managers will further collaborate with North Sea Port to increase rail freight between the two countries and start a follow-up study this year. The cooperation aims at growing the volumes moved by rail between Ghent in Belgium and Terneuzen in the Netherlands

The study was carried out in order to solve the current bottlenecks identified by NSP, Infrabel, and ProRail. The first bottleneck is the increasing demand for rail transport that cannot be supported by the existing infrastructure. The second one is that low rail capacity represents an obstacle to the modal shift from road to rail.

Three solutions to improve rail freight at the North Sea Port

A first study that was presented by the Dutch and Belgian governments in 2019 highlighted three possible railway developments, as NSP claimed. The first is a new border-crossing railway line east of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal between Zelzate (BE) and Axel (NL). Building a railway line east of the canal would relieve some pressure from the line on the west bank of the Canal as well as create additional capacity for more trains to run.

The second development proposed by this study is a new railway arch east of the Sluiskil Bridge, a handful of kilometres south of Terneuzen. As was mentioned in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2021 by various Dutch and Belgian representatives, the bridge is expected to reach its maximum capacity by 2030. As the MoU reported, this means that “from then on, the growth of rail freight transport can no longer be accommodated”. In addition, the arch would ensure that trains coming from the Axel Plain would be connected to the European network without having to deviate their route through Terneuzen.

Image: © Rail Ghent Terneuzen

The third and final project brought forward by the parties involved is to create a rail connection at the Kluizendok, in Zandeken, 20 kilometres north of Ghent. This new section would solve the problem of granting access to the Zandeken bundle to trains to and from the Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, in the south of the Dutch region Zeeland. Moreover, the MoU mentioned that “a northern access and expansion of the Zandeken bundle increases capacity on the west bank of the canal and optimizes logistics in the port complex”.

Rail Ghent Terneuzen

The new study is expected to start at the end of the summer of 2023. “ProRail and Infrabel will enter into dialogue with residents and organizations in the area”, NSP continued. Specifically for this project, NSP and the two IMs have launched a joint venture called Rail Ghent Terneuzen.

The MoU also contained estimated costs for the three projects mentioned above, which totalled 197,4 million euros. It needs to be mentioned that these estimates do not include VAT and were calculated with 2020 price levels. The Netherlands and Belgium would equally split the costs “if the conditions of the adaptive system are met, including administrative decision-making on taking the next step”.

In 2021, the Belgian government had already allocated 10,8 million euros for the construction of track sleeves near Zelzate. At the same time, the Netherlands decided to reserve 15 million euros for the Rail Ghent Terneuzen project. The parties involved, according to the MoU might also apply for European contribution.

At RailTech Belgium, sister publication RailTech gathers the Belgian rail sector and international players for a conference and pop-up exhibition on 6-7 June 2023. One of the conference’s topics is increasing rail capacity to and from the Belgian ports. Visit the website for more information.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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