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Brussels-Mechelen steam train project is scrapped

15:23 14/05/2023

A plan to operate steam trains between Brussels and Mechelen to celebrate Belgium's almost 200-year-old railway heritage has been abandoned.

The line from Brussels to Mechelen is the oldest rail line in mainland Europe, dating back to 1835, and the operators of Train World, the railway museum based within Schaerbeek station, had hoped to revive steam train journeys for tourists and rail enthusiasts alike.

The museum had been in discussions with the federal government and the SNCB since 2019.

It said at the time that it hoped to receive approval to offer steam train rides by the following year, 2020, using one of the locomotives in the museum's collection.

Answering a parliamentary question about what progress had been made, federal mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) said the plan had been shelved because it turned out to be too complicated to implement.

"It is no longer the ambition of Train World and the SNCB railway company to run a steam train again," the minister said.

An SNCB spokesman said that, during the discussions about the project, it became clear "how complex it would be to run these trains".

The plan was also incompatible with the rollout of ETCS - the European Train Control System - a Europe-wide rail safety system, likened to cruise control, which aims to greatly reduce the risk of trains passing a signal at red.

"It has been decided not to continue with this and to use our resources to deploy new trains instead," the spokesman said, adding that the SNCB nonethless remained committed to celebrating its heritage.

Written by The Bulletin