Last week, the Belgian government approved an action plan to double rail freight transport by 2030. This move should make rail the "backbone of mobility" in Belgium. The rail sector in Belgium has the potential to grow both short and long distances. Developing this potential will have a positive impact on the Belgian economy and climate objectives. The government aims to increase rail traffic from 7 billion to 14 billion tonne-kilometers by 2030. By doing so, Belgium should avoid an increase of 42 000 trucks on the road by 2030 and emissions of 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
According to Belgian Federal Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet, the approved freight transport plan is the result of two years of intensive work and very effective cooperation with economic operators, especially in the logistics sector.
“This plan includes 26 measures that will allow, among other things, longer trains and more fluid traffic. One freight train on our rail network means 50 trucks off our roads. At the same time, we are going to take action at the European level to remove a number of provisions that hinder international rail freight transport,” commented on his Facebook page Gilkinet.
One of the planned measures to make freight train planning more efficient is that a train route catalog will be created for rail freight companies, which will include a list of all the possible times that freight trains can use certain sections of track. In addition, interventions will be made to loading and unloading docks and railway yards so that freight trains with a maximum length of 740 meters can run, load, and unload by 2030. This is 90 meters longer than the current maximum length. New responsibility for traffic optimization and flow management has been given to Infrabel.
The approval of the 10-year action plan for rail freight was also welcomed by the Belgian Rail Freight Forum. However, it also points out some weaknesses of the approved plan. “The ten-year action plan for rail freight is a historic step forward, and we are extremely pleased with it. However, there are many challenges, both at the federal and regional levels. At present, there is no guarantee of funding for the plan,” said Paul Hegge, representative of the Belgian Rail Freight Forum. In several areas, the plan is limited to principles and ideas without a concrete implementation. In terms of budget, it is clear that the amount will not be sufficient to implement the action plan. In addition, major project proposals such as the 3RX, another Antwerp-North link, or the Antwerp-Zeebrugge freight line, are missing.