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High-speed train line closure in August to affect Eurostar services

15:01 07/07/2024

Anyone travelling by train between Belgium and France or the UK in the second part of August will see their journey times extended by about half an hour, Belgium’s train operator SNCB, rail network infrastructure operator Infrabel and international railway company Eurostar have announced.

The reason for this delay is that rail traffic on the high-speed line linking Belgium to the French border will be completely suspended in both directions from 12-29 August, due to engineering works.

“In recent years, signs of ageing have appeared on the line linking Brussels to the French-Belgian border," Infrabel said.

"This infrastructure, the oldest on the Belgian high-speed network, is now 27 years old. This observation has led the Belgian rail infrastructure manager to plan a renewal project that will be spread out over 10 years."

Most of the works over this 10-year period will be carried out at night, but Infrabel said that every summer the line will also be closed for about two weeks, day and night.

The first phase of the work will take place on 12 August, after the 11 August closing ceremony of the Paris Olympics.

Over 18 days and 18 nights, technical teams will completely renew the components of one of the two tracks on a 17.6km stretch, located in Leuze-en-Hainaut and Brugelette. They will lay 35.2km of new rails, about 30,000 new sleepers and some 5,500 tonnes of ballast, the layer of stones under the train tracks.

At the same time, extensive maintenance work will be carried out at various locations. This means that Eurostar trains to and from Brussels will be diverted to the classic line between Lille Europe and Brussels, adding 30 minutes to the journey time.

Eurostar passengers travelling from Amsterdam and Cologne to Paris, via Brussels, will also be diverted between Brussels and the French-Belgian border on to the classic line via Mons, increasing the journey time by 30 minutes.

To ensure the smooth flow of traffic, SNCB trains will be adjusted on the routes impacted by these diversions. This will affect national journeys between Brussels, Mons and Ath and between Mouscron and Brussels, meaning some time changes and possible addition of extra time.

In addition, also from 12 August and until 25 October, there will be fewer night trains between Brussels and Berlin, as Austrian rail operator ÖBB is stopping its Nightjet service. The European Sleeper night trains will however continue to run between the two cities.

ÖBB is temporarily suspending this link because of work it is carrying out at different points on the line in France and Germany. There will also be no Nightjet trains from Paris to Berlin and Vienna during this period.

“In order to avoid cancellations and unexpected delays and therefore disruption for passengers, unfortunately we must temporarily stop some Nightjet connections,” ÖBB said, adding that the three-times-weekly connection between Brussels and Vienna will be maintained.

The European Sleeper night trains will continue to run between Brussels and Berlin and then on towards Prague. These trains, via Amsterdam, will not be affected by the works, said European Sleeper co-founder Elmer van Buuren.

Written by Liz Newmark