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Construction work to begin on new metro tunnel under Brussels' North station

Illustration shows the presentation of the extension of the line Bordet with the construction of the new North-South metro line M3 of the Brussels' subway, Tuesday 13 September 2016, in Brussels. (BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM)
06:03 01/04/2021

Beliris, the agency for cooperation between Brussels and the federal government, will soon start digging a tunnel under Brussels North station, which will be the first step in creating the new metro line to Bordet. The new section of line, which will be 4.3 km long and will form part of the Metro 3 North-South project, will take passengers from Bordet in Evere to De Brouckère in the city centre in 10 minutes.

While the tunnel under the station will be quite short, the construction work to create it will be extensive. The tunnel begins at Place Solvay, almost immediately in front of North Station, where work will begin at a depth of 15m. On the opposite side of the station, another site on Rue d’Aerschot will begin digging at a depth of 22m.

"This is an irreversible step in the construction of the new metro line," said state secretary for urban planning, Pascal Smet, who issued the building permit in May last year. The tunnel under North Station will cost €47 million.

The work to continue the line to Bordet has yet to be given a building permit. The environmental impact study is currently under way. Smet said he wants to start the public inquiry in January next year. The permit can be delivered by the end of 2022.

Work on the tunnel under North Station will last until 2024 and tram and train services will be able to continue running. "The service should not be interrupted," Beliris chief executive Cédric Bossut said.

Beliris stresses that every effort has been made to reduce public inconvenience. Rue d’Aerschot will have to be partially closed, but the construction will take place behind a high fence. Most of the debris will be taken out through the construction site at Place Solvay, and then removed via the nearby canal. An environmental manager has also been appointed to ensure that the nuisance is kept to a minimum.

The tunnel is the latest step in the construction of the new 10km-long Metro 3 line which will connect the north and the south of the city. "It is a fantastic opportunity to help everyone take the step from using the car to taking public transport," said Brieuc de Meeûs, chief executive of the Stib, the Brussels transport operator. "The metro will take you from Bordet to De Brouckère in 10 minutes. Or in 20 minutes from Bordet to Albert."

Mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt added that the new metro will not only transport people through the city faster, but that the metro is also an opportunity to increase the quality of life in the city. "We want car-free neighbourhoods everywhere in the city,” she said. “The metro can help us with that."

Ten existing pre-metro stations will need to be adapted for the metro to run. Eight new stations will be added, seven of them along the newly excavated tunnel. The Stib is already working on the new Toots Thielemans metro station on Avenue de Stalingrad, near Midi station, in preparation for the future Metro Line 3.

The construction of new M3 stations in Schaerbeek and Evere, which will each take about two years, risks causing the most nuisance. The municipality of Schaerbeek has therefore drawn up a memorandum warning Beliris and the Brussels government that the disruption should be kept to a minimum and that the public space around these new metro stations will have to be respected and any development must be of a high quality.

Written by Nick Amies