The board of the rail infrastructure company Infrabel has announced the appointment of Ann Billiau as the temporary replacement for outgoing CEO Luc Lallemand.
Billiau, aged 50, becomes the second woman to head one of the branches of the Belgian railway system.
Infrabel is in charge of rail infrastructure, while the SNCB is in charge of the running of trains. The SNCB is headed by Sophie Dutordoir.
Lallemand, meanwhile, takes over at the top of SNCF Réseau, Infrabel’s equivalent in France. He has been CEO of Infrabel since it was split away from the rail authority in 2005.
Billiau has worked for the railways since the 1990s, and until now was in charge of traffic management, with the title Chief Client Officer since 1 January.
A geophysicist with a degree in mathematics from the university of Louvain-la-Neuve (UCL), she joined the SNCB in 1993, after spending a year at the Royal Observatory in Uccle as a scientific researcher.
She has been with Infrabel, like Lallemand, since the company was created in 2005.
Her choice as interim CEO was inevitable, because of the way top posts in government enterprises are filled.
Billiau is officially a French-speaker, while the chairman of Infrabel, Herman De Bode, is Dutch-speaking. According to the rules, a Flemish chairperson must be accompanied by a French-speaking CEO. Lallemand was a French-speaker, and so he must be replaced by another. Billiau happened to be the only qualified person on the board.
She takes up her new post on 1 March, and will hold the job until the federal government completes the procedure for finding a permanent replacement for Lallemand.