(L-R) Luxembourg’s Minister for Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch; Belgium’s Minister of Mobility and the National Railway Company, Georges Gilkinet; Credit: CFL

On Tuesday 3 October 2023, Luxembourg’s Minister for Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch, and Belgium’s Minister of Mobility and the National Railway Company, Georges Gilkinet, signed a letter of intent relating to the strengthening of railway cooperation between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Kingdom of Belgium.

With this letter of intent, Luxembourg and Belgium expressed their desire to enhance their railway collaboration, aiming to improve cross-border rail connections, making them faster, more modern and more appealing to commuters.

The objective is to increase the number of commuters traveling by train between the two countries, double rail freight volumes, and reduce travel times between Brussels and Luxembourg, aiming for a two-hour connection by 2030. Currently, 85% of daily cross-border commuters use cars, which both ministers intend to shift towards more sustainable rail transport, in alignment with climate objectives.

To achieve these goals, both countries plan to take several actions, among which especially those of modernising the infrastructure, making the passenger offer more attractive and continuing the development of rail freight.

Firstly, the countries intend to speed up the modernisation of axis three between Gembloux and Luxembourg, seeking funding through the Connecting Europe Facility for Transport (CEF Transport), a EU subsidy scheme. This could accelerate the project's completion by two years, making it operational by 2029. Luxembourg is also considering the removal of level crossings and the creation of a new multimodal stop in Hollerich by 2030.

Secondly, plans include developing multimodal hubs with easy road access and enhancing the cross-border rail offer. By December 2026, the countries aim to introduce a fast Brussels-Luxembourg connection with three daily round trips. By 2029, when modernisation work is set to be completed, they plan to double the frequency of IC trains and provide five rapid connections per day. Additionally, local service improvements will extend the Luxembourg-Arlon omnibus train to Libramont by December 2024, aiming to connect Luxembourg and Libramont twice an hour without changing trains.

Thirdly, the two countries aim to facilitate cross-border goods transportation with a focus on punctuality at border crossings. Investments in infrastructure and system interoperability will continue, the ministry noted.

A working group, placed under the authority of the two ministers, will be responsible for implementing these objectives.

Minister Gilkinet said: “The close collaboration between Belgium and Luxembourg has always been very fruitful in many areas, including rail. I am delighted that we are continuing our good relations, made concrete by this new Belgian-Luxembourg agreement. Thanks to this common commitment, the future of rail connections between Belgium and Luxembourg is on the right track. Cooperation between our two countries is essential and has positive repercussions for everyone, at multiple levels, whether in terms of the economy, the climate or even public health. Since the start of the legislature, more than 700 million have been invested or will be invested soon in the region, including more than 400 devoted to the modernisation of axis three.”

Minister Bausch added: “Thanks to a pragmatic approach based on a joint study carried out by the CFL and the SNCB, supplemented by the expertise provided by our respective ministries, I am delighted that we were able to find this agreement, which sets out both the objectives to be achieved in terms of infrastructure and in terms of the rail offer which will expand in the coming years. In the railway sector, we must ignore borders in order to offer a quality service to the inhabitants of the Greater Region, as well as for the transport of goods.”