Infrabel authorised to borrow up to 1 billion euros

Railway Johan Dehon / Infrabel

Belgian rail infrastructure manager Infrabel can borrow up to 1 billion euros to complete several priority projects. This amount finalises the financing of the means of the 2023-2032 investment plan granted by the Belgian federal government.

Infrabel’s board of directors has approved a loan of a maximum amount of 1 billion euros for the implementation of several projects aimed at increasing the capacity of the railway network as quickly as possible. These projects include, among others, the completion of works on the Regional Express Network (RER), axis 3 (Ottignies – Luxembourg border), and the railway line Gand-Bruges, as well as the expansion of ports in Brussels, Ghent, and Antwerp. Infrabel sought the opinions of several financial institutions to ensure the sustainability of its investments. The loan will be granted in two instalments by the Federal Debt Agency (AFD).

Promoting growth

Jan Cornillie, chairman of the board of directors of Infrabel, emphasized the importance of this loan. “By exceptionally contracting this loan, Infrabel is preparing the railway for increased growth for our customers, the operators. The board of directors is thus taking its responsibilities to realise major infrastructure projects such as the RER and major port projects.”

BenoĆ®t Gilson, CEO of Infrabel, expressed gratitude to the federal government for its long-term vision for the rail. “The loan contracted by Infrabel today supports the ambitions of the 2023-2032 Investment Plan. It is essential for the completion of the RER, the four-tracking of the Gand-Bruges railway line, and the stimulation of port investments. Today’s decision is a lever to improve the performance of the railway network for the benefit of our customers, modal shift, and the national economy.”

Moreover, with 9,400 FTEs (full-time equivalents) and annual investments of over one billion euros, Infrabel is an engine of the Belgian economy. A study conducted by Deloitte in 2022 shows that the company has a significant impact on national wealth: every euro invested by Infrabel generates an impact of 2.83 euros on the GDP.

Fundamental step

According to Georges Gilkinet, Belgian federal minister of mobility, by opting for a loan of 1 billion euros, Infrabel has taken a fundamental step in achieving the goals outlined in the performance contract signed in December 2022. “This additional billion will accelerate the realization of iconic and crucial projects for our railway network, including the RER in Wallonia, the Brussels-Luxembourg connection, and the opening up of our ports. This loan is a major step forward to improve the railway offering for passenger and freight transport, benefiting the climate, our economy, road safety, and the health of all.”

According to Gilkinet, this loan complements the additional funding committed by the federal government for railways since the beginning of the legislature. “After years of underinvestment and savings, our railway companies are now on a trajectory of ambitious and, above all, secure funding for the years to come. New investments will be made to make the train the key element of our future mobility and achieve the goal of increasing the number of people and the volume of goods transported by rail. I am pleased about it.”

Funding for significant works

In December 2022, the Council of Ministers approved Infrabel’s performance contract and its annexes, the financial plan, and the multi-year investment plan for the period 2023-2032. For the next 10 years, a budget of 16.4 billion euros (in 2023) is now earmarked for investments in the railway network (about 11 billion euros) and operational needs related to the operation and maintenance of the railway network (about 5.4 billion euros). Infrabel expresses its gratitude to the federal government for this long-term financial clarity. This long-term vision allows Infrabel to guarantee the necessary stability to its customers.

Within this budget, 1 billion euros could be taken in the form of a loan contracted by Infrabel to invest in major projects beneficial to mobility through an increase in capacity. These projects include the completion of works on the RER and axis 3 (Ottignies-Luxembourg border), port extension works (Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp), and the extension to 4 tracks of the Gand-Bruges railway line. Concretely, the loan can be used in two tranches. On Tuesday, the board of directors of Infrabel decided that a first tranche of 800 million euros would be activated from 2025.

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Author: Emma Dailey

Emma Dailey is an editor at RailTech.com and RailTech.be.

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