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    Royal opening for tram line 9

    © Belga
    © Belga

    The new number 9 tram line in Brussels was opened on Saturday afternoon, in the presence of King Philippe and the President-minister of the Brussels government Rudi Vervoort. The new line means it will now take fifteen minutes to travel between the Simonis and Arbre Ballon stations. Tram 9 will also pass through the UZ Brussels hospital site. 

    The King himself drove the tram that cut the symbolic Belgian flag coloured ribbon to open the line, after it pulled up at Simonis station at 3pm. The first rails for the new line were laid back in September 2015. The whole project has cost 76 million euros. It was financed by regional authorities and Beliris, who donated 20 million euros. The line will eventually be extended to the Roi Baudouin station so it can service the Heysel plateau. 

    “Our tram network will soon be 150 years old, but it continues to grow. We now have 18 tram lines,” says Brieuc de Meeûs, the STIB CEO. “There has always been a strong identity link between the tram and Brussels. This new fast line illustrates how public transport can be a lever for the development of a city”. 

    The rails have a built-in system to reduce vibration. The line will be used by STIB’s most modern trams, which have low floors and air-conditioning. Tram 9 has its own exclusive rails to travel along its four kilometre route, which has ten stops. The rails are all laid on grass. Although 181 trees were cut down during the building work, 240 were planted along the route. This means there are actually 59 more trees than before the line was built. 

    There will be a tram every 6 minutes during rush hour, every 10 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes evenings and weekends. The route taken by buses that pass near the new line (bus lines 13, 14, 53 and 84) will be changed. “This is the first time a new tram line has been created in Brussels in a very long time,” says Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet. “This project is a real example for the future. We have improved a public space, created a new fast line that is connected to the metro and built a car-park. All in three years”. 

    Avenue Arbre Ballon and Place du Miroir have been completely renovated. The latter now has a three-storey car-park that can hold 199 vehicles. The pedestrian and cyclist areas have been enlarged and are now protected.  

    King Philippe travelled to the opening of the renovated Place Reine Astrid by tram. On the square there was a fete with concerts, shows and later a ball which lasted until 11pm. The King wanted to meet the workers who built the line, as well as residents and local traders. 

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times