Court case to decide fate of rail link to port of Brussels


A 15-year-old decree is threatening the only rail link to the port of Brussels, which if destroyed would put more than 3,000 trucks a week on the streets of the capital

‘Completely absurd’

A legal challenge has been launched to save a vital railway link to the Port of Brussels, which will otherwise have to be dug up by the end of this year. The requirement to dismantle the line has been described by one Brussels minister as “completely absurd”.

Shutting down line 26A would prevent freight trains from across Europe accessing Brussels’ maritime hub, potentially adding an extra 3,300 trucks per week to the city’s streets.

The story dates back to 2004, when the federal government approved a decree ordering rail network operator Infrabel to shut down 26A, a short line connecting Schaerbeek train depot to the port.

The decree was passed because the government had plans to build Belgium’s new national football stadium on 40 hectares of land owned by the NMBS. The project was shelved a decade later, but the order to give up the land remains.

‘Very complex case’

Fines for non-compliance are high. “We are talking about €7 million in financial penalties annually,” said an Infrabel spokesperson.

According to federal mobility minister François Bellot, it has “proven impossible” to find a compromise among the various parties. “So now we are taking court action in Brussels to decide the outcome of this very complex case.”

Alain Maron, the Brussels minister in charge of the port of Brussels, said that the case had “dragged on for too long, a bit like a runaway train that we cannot stop. Dismantling this railway would be completely absurd. It is out of the question. Negotiations must succeed.”

Photo courtesy

Originally published in The Bulletin