The event was also attended by prime minister Mr Elio di Rupo, minister for public enterprises Mr Paul Magnette and secretary of state for mobility Mr Melchior Wathelet.

Construction began in 2007 on the project, which is divided into two sections: a publically-financed €388m, 17.6km double-track line from Schaerbeek to Zemst, near Mechelen, which follows the E19 highway, and a €290m 4.8km connection between the new line and the existing Brussels Airport station. The link has been constructed by the Diabolo Nord consortium under a 40-year design-finance-build concession.

Diabolo Nord is bearing both the construction and revenue risk of the project, and will receive a fixed sum of €3.80 for every passenger journey with Brussels Airport as a destination or departure point. Infrabel will also pay an annual indexed fee of €9m.

At present Brussels National Airport is served by four trains per hour from Brussels and two per hour from Leuven. From this month the airport will also be served by hourly Brussels – Antwerp intercity trains, and interregional services to Mechelen, which will be extended to Antwerp from December to provide a half-hourly service to the north. This will provide eight trains per hour between Brussels and the airport, while journey times between the airport and Antwerp will be halved to around 30 minutes.