Belgium’s new freight-only Liefkenshoek rail link at the Port of Antwerp is set to start commercial operations from 14 December, following the official opening of the rail tunnel next week.
Prior to this, the Belgian railway operator Infrabel has carried out a trial exercise jointly with the Antwerp and Beveren fire departments to test the tunnel’s safety plan and to finalise the communication procedures.
The line has already been equipped with safety systems, including linear detection system for early detection of fire, along with the ETCS signalling system.
The 16.2km-long Liefkenshoek rail link connects the eastern and western docks of the Escaut River and links Bundel Zuid with the Antwerp North marshalling yard. It runs under the Kanaal dock, Schelde River and Waasland canal.
It will offer speed and direct connection between the Waasland port area on the left bank and Antwerp North marshalling yard, in addition to an enhanced rail connection with the European hinterland.
According to the estimates, 15% of container transport to and from the port is expected to be handled through the railway by 2030.
Started in 2008, this €765m dual railway project is the largest infrastructure development project in Belgium and Infrabel is building the line through a public-private-partnership (PPP).
Image: Firefighters during the trial exercise at the Liefkenshoek rail tunnel. Photo: courtesy of Port of Antwerp.