2013-2015 railroad investment plan adopted

  • The government has approved the railroad investment plan and timetable
  • Safety, punctuality, capacity and comfort are a priority

Security, punctuality, capacity – this is the mantra for the €26 billion investment program that was finally adopted on Friday by the government to outfit the Belgian rail system by 2025. It was proposed by Jean-Pascal Labille, minister of public enterprise.

Nearly €2 billion will be invested on a yearly basis over twelve years (to clarify, the plan won’t truly begin until 2014) – not a puny amount. The ideal project that would meet all the SNCB Group’s requirements and promise the highest possible quality of the various elements of the railway would climb to almost double that amount (€42.8 billion). Since it was too ambitious, it had to be ratcheted down in about every area and now we’re left with these four key words.

The €26 billion over 12 years is no small change. If €1 billion in annual operating allocations are included, the total bill for the Belgian railway climbs to at least €38 billion by 2025, or €3,545 per taxpayer at the rate of €287 per year per person (in comparison to €158 per year for schools according to the OECD).

Cost breakdown – €12.9 billion are allocated to mobility (train purchase, railroad capacity), €5.2 billion for safety (recommendations by the Buizingen commission), €5 billion for buildings and services (stations, parking, offices, IT, information counters etc.) and €2.5 billion for future projects to be developed in collaboration with the regions.

Regional priorities – While the Brussels and Flemish Regions pinpointed the aspects they plan on prioritizing within the federal PPI (multiannual investment plan) framework, the Walloon Region has thus far been unable to address the issue. It’s known so far that €2.56 billion are reserved for regional projects: €988 million for Flanders, €910 million for Brussels and €668 million for Wallonia (in addition to the €500 million they will contribute to the financing).

RER – It is worth noting that the fact that something is included in the plan is not a guarantee that it will be executed. The RER (regional express network) was supposed to be inaugurated in 2012 following a multiannual investment plan. The work for line 161 (Ottignies-Brussels) should finally be completed by 2021; line 124 (Nivelles-Brussels) by 2023. The French-speakers had presented an alternate solution (L161 by 2019 and L124 by 2025), but it was not followed through. The unavoidable community 60/40 allocation obligation takes precedence.

Brussels-Luxembourg – The modernization of this line, a priority for the transportation of goods, was also included in the previous plan. It should be finished by 2021.

C” lines – Maintenance of the “smaller” lines that serve less populated zones, many of which are located in Wallonia, is guaranteed.

North-south junction – As announced by Le Soir (17 July), a consultation process in combined transport types to and within the Brussels-capital regions will be initiated. This should be concluded by 2014 latest. Specific budgets have been set aside, and they will be disbursed according to the study results.

Capacity – Increased by 120,000 available seated occupancy (through rolling stock purchase and refurbishment, notably of double-decker cars) by 2025. That’s 95,000 fewer seats than the “ambitious” initial plan, which was based on the growth of average use over the past ten years.

Accessibility – Different amounts, from €400 to €540 million, are earmarked to improve accessibility for disabled people.

Flexibility – The multiannual 2013-2025 plan includes several projects, which are summarized by around 100 factsheets. It will be flexible – an evaluation will take place every five years to adapt to the evolving reality.

ÉRIC RENETTE

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