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Closing rail link to Brussels Port 'completely absurd'

20:53 14/01/2020

A legal challenge has been launched to save a vital railway link to the Port of Brussels - which will otherwise have to be dug up by the end of this year.

The requirement to dismantle the line has been described by one Brussels minister as "completely absurd"  -as it would prevent freight trains from across Europe accessing Brussels' maritime hub, potentially adding an extra 3,300 trucks per week to the city's streets.

The story dates back to 2004, when the federal government approved a royal decree, ordering rail network operator Infrabel to shut down line 26A, a little branch line connecting Schaerbeek train depot to the port.

The decree was passed because the government had plans to build Belgium's new national football stadium on 40 hectares of land owned by the SNCB. The project was shelved a decade later, but the order to give up the land remains.

Fines for non-compliance are high. "We are talking about €7 million in financial penalties each year," said an Infrabel spokesman.

Federal mobility minister François Bellot said: "It proved impossible to find a compromise between the various parties. So now we are taking court action in Brussels to decide the outcome of this very complex case."

Alain Maron, the Brussels minister in charge of the Port of Brussels, said the case had "dragged on for too long, a bit like a runaway train that we cannot stop".

He said: "Dismantling this railway would be completely absurd. It is out of the question. Negotiations must succeed."

Written by The Bulletin