THE Belgian cabinet has approved the Rail Roadmap plan put forward in September 2021 by more than 20 organisations to double the volume of rail freight by 2030, which has 26 measures designed to facilitate rail freight growth.

These include allocating funds to eliminate all pinch points which cause delay on the network by 2027, equipping the network to accommodate 740m-long trains, improving the harmonisation of allocating train paths, introducing a single transparent freight rate for Antwerp marshalling yard to open it to all operators, and removing the barriers to cross-border rail freight.

Deputy prime minister and minister of transport, Mr Georges Gilkinet, says action will be taken at the European level to try to remove some of the obstacles that hinder international rail freight, such as the fact that drivers must speak the language of every country they work in.

“The government has decided to make rail the backbone of transport in Belgium,“ Gilkinet says. “This objective is necessary in order to respond to the challenges of our economy, the climate, public health and road safety. This is the moment of truth for rail."

However, the Belgian Rail Freight Forum has criticised the plan for the lack of funding commitments from government, and says that some projects, such as better rail links to the port of Antwerp, are missing from the plan.

“From a budgetary point of view, we mainly rely on Infrabel’s proposal for a multi-year investment plan, which we already know will be insufficient to meet the infrastructure needs of this plan,” the Belgian Rail Freight Forum said. “There are no new concrete operational and innovation support budgets yet.”