Infrabel brings education together at Belgium’s first railway academy

Infrabel officially opened the Infrabel Academy. All training for the railway industry is brought together under one roof in the Brussels Capital Region, in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. By paying attention to education, Infrabel wants to be better able to fill the large number of technical vacancies, says Thomas Baeken of Infrabel.

There are at least 350 vacancies to be filled by the end of the year, said Baeken to SpoorPro. Fifty of these have to be filled in Brussels. “These are mainly people with a technical background, exactly the kind of people who are hard to find. On top of that, we have 700 to 800 vacancies to fill every year. Many of our people are retiring and this group needs to be replaced.”

In the Netherlands, a situation has arisen where staff shortages at traffic control stations are causing problems on the railways. It has certainly not come to that in Belgium yet, emphasises Baeken. “We can perform our tasks, even with the people we have. The challenge we have is to replace the constant outflow. Training is very important for that.”

Room for 500 trainees

The Academy had been ready for several months, but due to the corona situation, there was not yet a suitable moment to actually open the building and the surrounding grounds, which are located a stone’s throw away from Brussels-West station.

The Infrabel Academy, which in addition to the building also has 7,500 square metres of outdoor space, offers almost 300 different courses and training programmes. This means that people can be trained as track layers as well as prepared for traffic control.

Around 500 students and trainees can be accommodated at the Academy every day in 40 classrooms, although the railway school will not yet be operating at full capacity due to the corona situation. “We will soon welcome around 150 to 170 trainees”.

Plenty of room for practical skills

At the Infrabel Academy, the staff of the Belgian railway manager must be given as much practical training as possible. On the outside area, space has been made available for various set-ups, including a set of points, a level crossing and signals with signalling equipment. We have also installed an overhead line at man height. This way, people can safely practice and work with it.

There is also a GSM-R mast and a real ‘school train’. In this wagon, students can learn about old signal box technologies and compare them to the modern equipment in today’s signal boxes.

The Infrabel Academy building represents an investment of some 20 million euros. Baeken is very proud of the many windows, as this symbolises the “open and transparent corporate culture”. The railway academy should therefore become a meeting place for people to get to know each other and each other’s expertise.

View an album of the opening of the Infrabel Academy below:

Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor-in-chief of RailTech.com, RailFreight.com and SpoorPro.nl, online magazines for railway professionals.

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