The Flemish government has approved a plan to revamp its entire tram network between 2019 and 2023, at a cost of an estimated €300 million. According to the region’s public transport authority De Lijn, tram infrastructure is becoming more run-down, which has an effect on costs, the experience of passengers and the public image of the network.
“This will be a major catch-up operation, which is what the city authorities have been asking for,” said Flemish minister for mobility Ben Weyts in a statement. The renovation programme, which he referred to as “a giga-investment”, starts next year, and coincides with regional elections which are, however, unlikely to change the complexion of the Flemish government greatly.
“The cities have long been asking for a major modernisation of the network, and I think they’re right,” Weyts said. “We have accumulated an historic backlog, and today we are going to set that right.”
The plans were the result of a study carried out by two independent consultants. Among the projects planned: a renovation of the 11km stretch of coastal tramway between Ostend, a major railway connection, and Middelkerke. The coast tram covers 143km between Knokke and De Panne (both ways), and trams run in Antwerp (126km) and Ghent (62km).
In Antwerp the network will be progressively electrified to allow the operation of longer trams to cope with increased passenger demand. In Ghent, a section of the Poperingestraat will be renovated. The tramlines at that location still run on wooden sleepers, with points which date back to 1981.
A few other trams run in Flanders: the Brussels authority Stib/MIVB runs from Montgomery to Ban-Eik and Tervuren, and a brief stretch from Sint-Agatha-Berchem to Groot-Bijgaarden.