Belgium’s rail infrastructure manager Infrabel will take a €1bn loan to finance its 10-year plan from 2023 to 2032.
The funds will be used to increase capacity on key routes, including the Flemish corridor between Bruges and Ghent and a southeastern route from Ottignies-Louvain near Brussels and Luxembourg.
The Brussels region “S Train” or RER will be completed within the new funding framework.
The inland ports at Brussels and Ghent, along with the major seaport at Antwerp, will benefit from rail infrastructure “extensions” as part of Belgium’s plan to assist the modal shift away from road transport.
Jan Cornillie, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Infrabel, explained the function of the new financial instrument.
“Infrabel is preparing the rail network to respond to the growth in the offer of our customers, the operators. By exceptionally taking out its own loan, the Board of Directors assumes its responsibility to complete major infrastructure projects such as the RER and major port projects,” he said.
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The funds will be provided in two tranches by the Belgian Federal Debt Agency, with the first €800m ($863m) slice being drawn in 2025.
The overall investment plan is worth €16.4bn ($17.6bn) over the decade, with €5bn allocated to upkeep and maintenance.
Benoit Gilson, Infrabel CEO, thanked the Belgian government for its “long-term vision”.
“This loan is essential in particular to complete the RER, the four-tracking of the axis between Ghent and Bruges or even to stimulate investments in the ports,” he added.
Belgium’s Federal mobility minister George Gilkinet said he was “delighted” by the agreement, and described the Flemish and Walloonian projects as a “step forward”.
“This billion additional euros will make it possible to accelerate the completion of projects as emblematic as they are fundamental on our rail network, in particular the RER on the Walloon side, the Brussels-Luxembourg link and the opening up of our ports.
“This loan constitutes a new major step forward in improving the rail offer, both for passenger transport and for the transport of goods, for the benefit of the climate, our economy, road safety and the health of all of us all,” he said.