Breakthrough in express tram Hasselt-Maastricht?
Flemish government is picking up discretely the thread of the development of an express tram connection between Hasselt (Belgium) and Maastricht (the Netherlands). According to a so-called ‘non-paper’ that was discussed during the last Flemish council of ministers.
It seems that Flanders is willing to use the 17,1 million euro – set aside for the construction of a bundle of rails in the harbour of Zeebrugge – for the closing of the railway crossings in Bilzen and Diepenbeek (Belgium) and to install an express tram connection between Hasselt and Maastricht.
This means the realization of the express tram connection is closer than ever, although two hurdles need to be to cleared yet: a procedure at the Council of State in Maastricht (the Netherlands) and a discussion about another route in the inner-city of Hasselt.
The project, referred to as the Spartacus plan – originally created by public transport company, De Lijn, and national rail, NMBS, and meant to promote public transport in the Belgian part of Limburg – has been lingering on for almost fifteen years. Now it finally seems to come afloat. Goal is to lift the province of Limburg to a higher level.
In November, Flemish Mobility Minister, Ben Weyts (N-VA), already set a 12 million euro budget aside for the last cases of expropriation along the route and now there also is a solution for the railway crossings in Bilzen and Diepenbeek.
Nine railway crossings
The 17,1 million euro will only be used to tackle the nine essential railway crossings along the traced out route. Construction works are estimated at 19,8 million euro. It is not clear yet where the remaining 2,7 million euro will come from. The other five crossings are not included in the budget.
The N-VA politicians in Limburg are not in favour of the project, they would like to give priority to more efficient public transport to the northern part of Limburg and the Maasland. Weyts, however, does not agree with his fellow party members, he wants to implement the coalition agreement.
Weyts absolutely wants concrete results, also because he realizes that his plans for a smart kilometre tax can only succeed when the province of Limburg has an alternative for public transport.
The first consult of the city, Flemish bus and tram company, De Lijn, and the agency for roads and traffic (Agentschap Wegen en Verkeer) is expected soon.