‘Investment in Belgian rail needs to include more than infrastructure’
In a month from now, RailTech will hosts its first event in Belgium: RailTech Belgium 2023. Home to several major ports, a key focus of the conference programme in Belgium will be on the rail infrastructure in those ports, Antwerpen in particular. Infrabel’s head of port rail solutions Heidi Hendrix will shed light on the latest developments. Here’s wat to expect.
As the port of Antwerp-Bruges is the second largest port in Europe, much of the focus will be on the rail infrastructure there and the projects planned in the current decade under Infrabel’s multi-year investment programme and performance contract. Hendrix will pay attention to rail connections within ports, between industrial sites in Belgium and hinterland connections that help support the attractiveness of the ports and Belgian logistics in general.
Hendrix stresses that investments require more than infrastructure alone. “Another important part of the investments will include ICT and digitalisation. This will not only allow us to upgrade our own systems, but also to better facilitate the flow of traffic.”
Furthermore, a number of regulatory optimisations are necessary. Infrabel wants to address this together with its stakeholders and work towards a regulatory framework that better suits the needs of a port. In fact, all these measures are part of a plan set up with the ports to double the share of rail by 2030.
Hendrix also stresses that Infrabel intends to tackle a number of bottlenecks as part of its 10-year plan. “The aim is obviously to make our network future-proof in order to fulfil both the ambitions in terms of growth in freight transport and passenger transport. Not always an easy exercise. It takes time and the work will have to continue beyond 2032. We are pleased that our federal government has developed a clear rail vision with its Rail Vision 2040, and our investment programme and performance contract with the government have been drafted along these lines.”
‘Rail transport is everyone’s business’
Rail investments in ports in the coming years will focus mainly on Antwerp, but there is also much to do in North Sea Port (Ghent). Investment in the port of Zeebrugge will remain limited, not because the area is overlooked, but because a lot has been invested in it in recent years, Hendrix said.
Hendrix underlines the need for realism in the coming decade. “Yes, we have budgets for the coming years and yes, we will certainly already be able to do a lot with that to support rail freight. At the same time, for example, not everything has yet been provided for e.g. the Extra Container Antwerp (ECA) project in Antwerp. If we want to be able to accommodate the expected flow of extra containers towards the hinterland, we will have to continue investing in rail even after 2032.
“We continue to work on developing rail as the backbone of the country and we want to do our share for the economy and the logistics sector. We want to do this together with all other parties in the rail freight logistics chain. ‘Let’s modal shift’ is not a slogan but a verb”, concludes Hendrix.
Curious about our conference programme? Join RailTech Belgium 2023 now. There will also be a all-encompassing exhibition and several knowledge sessions. Be sure to sign up in a timely fashion.
Shifts come frequently and rapidly.
With technical life, 30 years, or more, urgently railway investments now have to prove redundant, with margin, for added load, etc.
(Other modes, those redundant, upgrade for added load and lower costs – and accordingly demand from clients raises!)
Regrettably, short of redundancy and even worse now not sustaining traffic and speed, current standard is “cementing” and devastatingly paving for all sorts of subsidies – extra upon clients of other modes, etc.