BELGIAN infrastructure manager Infrabel has announced a project to electrify and track-double a section of the L11 rail freight line, which will double rail capacity and eliminate a bottleneck on a key route to the Port of Antwerp.

Infrabel announced the project in partnership with intermodal terminal operator Combinant and chemical company BASF.

The 18km L11 runs on the right bank of the Scheldt River, running north from Line 27A to the marshalling yard at Antwerp-North, and continuing in the median of the A12 highway to Stabroek and Zandvliet near the Dutch border. It is the sole railway line providing access to the north of the Port of Antwerp, the location of an important chemical cluster as well as two major container terminals. Two-thirds of trains using L11 serve Combinant and BASF’s facilities at the port.

Work involves electrifying and track-doubling a 5km single track section of L11 south of the port as well as electrifying the existing 1.1km and 1.2km double-track sections, which are located south and north of the 5km section respectively. The north double-track section connects with a 2.2km electrified section within the port (see map below).

Infrabel plans to start electrification work this autumn, which will last until mid-2026. Construction of the second track is planned to commence in 2024 and will take around two years. The project is estimated to cost €30m with the three partners seeking support from the European Union for the electrification element.

In addition, both Combinant and BASF plan to partially electrify five tracks at the port while BASF plans to entirely electrify one 740m-long track. Combinant also recently invested €2m to construct a new 760m-long track, which it says will strengthen its position as a strategic terminal in BASF’s intermodal network as well as at the Port of Antwerp.

The project is expected to reduce journey times for some freight trains to the port by up to two hours by enabling through operation of freight services, ending the need for diesel traction at Antwerp North marshalling yard.

The project is consistent with the cooperation agreement that the CEOs of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Railport, which represents companies operating in the port, and Infrabel signed at the end of 2019 to improve the attractiveness of rail freight at the port. The goal is to increase rail’s share of transport from the Port of Antwerp from 7% to 15% by 2030.

Graphic showing L11 and its connection with the Port of Antwerp.