54 per cent of the Belgian railway network is now equipped with ETCS
The European Train Control System (ETCS) has been installed on an additional 127 kilometres of Belgian tracks, pushing the share tracks equipped with ETCS well over half. The goal is to have ETCS installed on the entire Belgian rail infrastructure by the end of 2025.
54 per cent or tracks, amounting to a total of 3,462 kilometres, are now equipped with the system. About a hundred workers were mobilised on June 3 and 4, for the latest rollout job, which strengthened Belgium’s position as the European country with the second-highest proportion of equipped network after Luxembourg. ETCS level 2 had already been put into service on the 122 kilometres of tracks between Liège and Namur in March, following three years of preparation. This time, significant signalling works were carried out by Infrabel on the Brussels-Midi and Hal section.
In various locations including Brussels-Midi, Hal, Boondael, Holleken, Petite Île, Anderlecht, and Forest, 15 Infrabel teams completed the final adjustments and tests for the installation of 650 ETCS beacons along the tracks. Specifically, out of the 127 kilometres of main tracks equipped with the ETCS system, 66 kilometres are in the rail grids of Brussels-Midi station, 18 kilometres between Brussels-Midi and Lembeek, and 43 kilometres between Forest and Holleken, as well as between Hal and Boondael. In total, 300 signals have been equipped with ETCS, and 3.200 possible routes have been tested.
Approximately 1.200 passenger trains pass through Brussels-Midi station every day, accounting for one-third of all trains on the Belgian network. These ETCS installation works follow the previous phase on December 18, 2022, where 58 kilometres of main tracks (320 signals) were equipped with ETCS and put into service between Brussels-Midi and Schaerbeek stations, including the North-Midi Junction. This time, the works were carried out on the other side of Brussels-Midi station.
To ensure the technicians could work safely and efficiently, no train traffic was possible. The works began on the night of Saturday to Sunday after the end of train service (around 2 a.m.) and ended on Sunday morning (10 a.m.). Brussels-Midi station was the first to be reopened (at 6 a.m.) regarding its access from the north.
“With the implementation of ETCS in the area between Brussels-Midi and Halle, the heart of our railway network is now fully equipped with ETCS. The installation of the European safety system is and will remain an absolute priority for Infrabel. Alongside automated railway traffic management systems, ETCS provides our customers with the highest level of safety and strengthens Belgium’s position as having one of the best-equipped and, therefore, safest railway networks in Europe. I would like to thank all the teams who are tirelessly working – both on the field and behind the scenes – on this progressive deployment,” said Benoît Gilson, CEO of Infrabel.
Adapted NMBS/SNCB service
NMBS/SNCB has developed an adapted train service to minimise disruptions for passengers. Some trains heading towards Brussels were limited or diverted, with replacement buses available at nearby stations. Passengers had the option to use buses and trams from the STIB and/or De Lijn networks by presenting their SNCB transport ticket to travel to the North-Midi Junction or Brussels Airport. Railway traffic gradually resumed from 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 4, 2023.
To learn more on the matter, join us tomorrow for RailTech Belgium in Brussels. The event will be held on 6-7 June. During the morning conference, we will take a deep dive into the rollout of ETCS. Want to join the conversation? Register now! RailTech Belgium also features a major free exhibition and knowledge session programme.