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    The total RER bill currently estimated at 3 billion euros

    The total cost of the RER works is expected to be around 3 billion euros. An amount of 1.956 billion euros spent on work already done, plus an amount of 1.05 billion euros, recently decided by the federal government on the initiative of the Minister of Mobility, François Bellot, to complete the RER. The original amount planned for the RER project was 1.612 billion euros.

    Between 2004 and 2014, the Belgian State contributed 2.184 billion euros to the RER fund, of which 1.956 billion euros was spent, while the RER fund currently still has 228 million euros.

    Now added to this is the the funding envelope of 1.05 billion euros, decided by the federal government. The Belgian government will borrow one billion euros, which Minister Bellot calls “virtuous” given the expected return effects. If the mode of borrowing has not yet been stopped, the direction will be towards a classic state loan, gradually realised on the basis of needs and added to the debt of the Belgian State and not those of SNCB and Infrabel, according to the minister.

    The 1 billion euros that will be borrowed is in addition to the 257 million euros of prefinancing from the Walloon Region for the RER and the remaining 228 million euros from the RER fund, adding up to a total of 1.485 billion euros, of which 1.05 billion euros will go towards the completion of the work of the RER and 436 million euros will be available, “excluding RER”, to meet the priorities of the regions in railway matters. The allocation of 60/40 means that 368 million of the 436 will return to Flanders, 53 to Wallonia and 15 million to Brussels.

    According to Minister Bellot, the allocation of these means “outside the RER” will have to be discussed within the investment cell. In Brussels, the 15 million available could be used to improve the comfort of stations as part of a valorisation of the S (suburban) offer, suggests the minister.

    These various balances will be the subject of a cooperation agreement with the regions, which will confirm the 60/40 allocation plan, but this can now be assessed on a multiannual basis (every two years) and no longer has to be assessed strictly on an annual basis, says François Bellot. “We do not want the 60/40 key to be a brake on the implementation of projects on one hand, or the linguistic frontier on the other”.

    This “temporal” relaxation is also a response to a recent report by the Court of Auditors that the application of the 60-40 allocation is one of the causes of the considerable delays in implementing the RER. According to the Court of Auditors, “building sites were halted for the sole reason of respect for the allocation plan. Respect for the allocation plan may also have led to an increase or acceleration of investments in one region (for example, the construction of car parks).

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times