The €170m bypass includes a new double-track line to increase capacity and line speeds for through trains between Schaarbeek and Mechelen on Line 25 as well as offering a connection to the Diabolo rail link to Brussels Airport.

Construction of the bypass began in June 2013 and included six new bridges, with the last major works completed on November 29 following the installation of the two remaining switches near Jubellaan viaduct.

The project included the installation of 9000 sleepers, six points, 16km of catenary contact wire and 16 ETCS beacons.

“Smooth mobility is extremely important for our quality of life and our economy,” says Mr Alexander De Croo, prime minister of Belgium. “The new bypass strengthens Mechelen's role as a strategic hub. This is important for both domestic and international train traffic: just think of the Brussels - Antwerp - Netherlands connection.”

SNCB will also begin operating services from two new platforms at Mechelen station from December 14, to coincide with the opening of the bypass and the introduction of SNCB’s new timetable.

The new platforms, designated 11 and 12, cost €13m and will improve capacity at the station, and are part of a wider series of upgrades intended to transform Mechelen into a multimodal hub, accommodating for a range of travel modes including rail, bus, bicycle and cars.

The €105m station upgrade programme also includes the renovation of platforms 1-10 and the replacement of the existing passenger building, with work expected to be completed in 2027.

Once the renovation of platforms 7, 8, 9 and 10 is complete, SNCB, Thalys, Eurostar and Benelux services will be able to travel through Mechelen station at 160km/h instead of the current 100km/h.