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Spiralling metro line 3 costs 'too much for Brussels alone' to bear
Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) has called the ballooning costs for the Belgian capital’s metro line 3 “too much for Brussels alone” to bear.
“The [Brussels] government has reaffirmed its will to proceed with the metro, but this does not mean that we should not question the cost,” Van den Brandt said.
“We need external support… We will formally ask the federal government for financial resources. We’re also looking at what Europe can do.”
Costs for works on the line have risen to more than €4 billion, the minister said.
The project has faced a series of difficulties ever since its launch and it was recently revealed through a “premature” job posting discovered by media outlets that Beliris, the federal building authority for Brussels, was considering scrapping it entirely.
Beliris has since said that “whether the project still has a future depends on the Brussels government”.
Van den Brandt seems to be sending clear signals that the capital does not have the funds to see the project to fruition.
The new cost of at least €4 billion emerged from a debate in the Brussels parliament's mobility committee, where many questions remained unanswered, Bruzz reports.
A good chunk of that extra cost is explained by the bids for the northern section of the line, which were a lot more expensive than expected – €2 billion instead of the €810 million Beliris expected.
“That was really a shock for us, something we could not have predicted,” Van den Brandt said.
There have also only been two bids so far, meaning very limited competition could be driving up the costs – a possibility Van den Brandt intends to investigate before committing to any bidders – a decision currently scheduled for the end of 2024.
According to Van den Brandt, Beliris will have invested €444 million in the metro by the end of 2024, “and it is barely 10% of the total cost”.
Van den Brandt answered a number of questions from MPs. Cieltje Van Achter (N-VA) is submitting a motion asking for clarity on the impact of the additional cost on the Brussels budget.
“The Brussels government is always looking to the federal or European level for additional support, but it also has to put its own house in order,” Van Achter said.
The long-term operation of the southern half of metro line 3 - from Brussels-North to Albert - is impossible without the northern section towards Bordet being completed, because there is no depot available to store the metro trains circulating on the future route, according to Stib chief executive Brieuc de Meeûs.
“During a temporary period, we can operate the metro just between Brussels-North and Albert, but it’s impossible to sustain this in the long term,” De Meeûs said.
“This is because we lack a storage depot to park the metro trains. Without this depot, very complicated manoeuvres have to take place at night. A depot is needed at the end of the line.”
De Meeûs rejected the possibility of operating only the southern part of the project.
“We need a depot [at Bordet, the northern end of the line] to inject the line 3 trains into the network and ensure maintenance.”
As the various authorities scramble to find a solution for the inflating costs of the project, de Meeûs suggested that “a step back” was in order.
“We need to work methodically,” de Meeûs said, “as this is a job that will take months. It's normal for such huge projects to take time.”