Belgian rail lines risk closure if government doesn’t commit money, says Infrabel
Belgian infrastructure manager Infrabel might decide to close some of its railway lines if the Belgian government does not accept the company’s demands for ensuring the future of rail freight. The federal government recently launched a plan to boost rail freight in the country but has so far failed to shed light on the specific financial investments required to do so, which is what Infrabel is asking for.
The drastic measure of possibly closing lines is just one among other possible outcomes if the government’s plan is not considered satisfactory, an Infrabel spokesperson told sister publication RailFreight.com. “When the investment plan was developed, it was mentioned that some lines could be closed,” the spokesperson commented. However, Infrabel did not share what the other options would be or if the closures would be permanent.
Reports have mentioned that Infrabel is ready to shut down around 700 kilometres of lines. On the other hand, the Infrabel spokesperson said that noting is set in stone because of the ongoing negotiations. Further updates could come next week, when negotiations with the government are expected to be concluded, one way or another.
Federal minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet was quick to rule out any sort of action that would result in the closure of lines. He noted that the “political will and required funds are there” to satisfy the railway sector.
Rail workers have already gone on strike
Pressure on the Belgian government does not only come from Infrabel. At the beginning of the week, the joint rail union front announced a 24 hours strike starting Tuesday 4 October at 22.00. The strike was actually planned for 18 October but was brought forward to push the government to take a decision. The strike led to 75 percent of trains in Belgium to be cancelled.
The Belgian government’s Rail Roadmap plan was drafted last year and approved at the end of September. The plan aims at preparing the rail network for 740-metres-long trains. Moreover, Belgium will make an effort to remove obstacles to cross-border transport. The main purpose is to double the volume of rail freight transport by 2030.