On Friday, the new railway investment plan focussing on more accessible stations, improved services and more freight transport was approved by the federal government.
A total of €250 million will be freed up for the planned rail investments to ensure railways become the backbone of mobility in the country. Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet previously announced the plan earlier this month, but it has now been given the green light.
"The federal government is making a clear choice: the railways will be the backbone of future mobility. This Transition Plan contributes fully to that," he said in a statement.
"With this €250 million, we are once again supporting the railways. Since the start of this legislature, we have been reversing the trend of the past and investing heavily for train users, both passengers and companies! That is good for our economy and the climate."
More trains, improved access and encouraging freight transport
With this plan, Gilkinet wants to double the number of train journeys in the mobility mix over the next 20 years.
As was previously confirmed, €28 million will go towards improved accessibility in stations — such as raising platforms and adding lifts to stations — in addition to the already purchased more accessible M7 trains.
"It is important that everyone can take the train easily, even if you have difficulty walking, travel with children, have impaired hearing or sight or have a physical disability," Gilkinet said. "Thanks to these investments, which were decided upon at the start of the legislature, we are making mobility easier and freer."
A large chunk of the budget will also go towards the expansion of freight transport in the country through investments in the ports of Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge, which is not only expected to save a lot of money for businesses but would also lower the output from road vehicles, helping Belgium to reach its climate targets.
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"The federal government's objective is to double the volume of freight transported by rail by 2030. One goods train takes 50 trucks off the road. That will improve road safety, reduce congestion and CO2 emissions. We also want to support our companies and local employment with this," Gilkinet said.
These investments will also benefit passengers, as freight trains and passenger trains use the same railway network, meaning "all investments improve the network as a whole and thus reduce the environmental impact of mobility."
The final part of the budget (€42 million) will go towards improving the railway axis between Brussels and Luxembourg (the so-called "Axis 3"), so the modernised railway connection can be put into service sooner and more international day and night train connections can be introduced, with Brussels as the international rail hub.
The budget included in the Transition Plan comes on top of the €365 million the government previously released as part of the European Relaunch Plan.