New express tram line along A12 highway on hold
The plans for an express tram between Willebroek and Brussels have been put on hold for the time being because proceedings are pending before the Council of State. In the meantime, an action group pleads to build a metro line instead of a tram connection. “It could easily connect to the Brussels mobility network.”
Time gain of 35 minutes
In 2014, the plans for the express tram between the Antwerp municipality of Willebroek and the Heysel in Brussels were presented. It was a solution to tackle traffic jams in the direction of the capital. In less than forty minutes, the tram could take you to Brussels, a time gain of 35 minutes compared to public transport today.
Departure point would be at the Fort of Breendonk and on the way, there were stops in Londerzeel, Meise, and Wolvertem. There would always be enough parking spaces at these stops. In Willebroek, parking for hundreds of vehicles would be built. The tram would leave on the left-hand side of the A12 highway and only cross the highway at Londerzeel, in order to continue on the right-hand to Brussels.
However, more than six years after the presentation of the plan, there is less than a meter of track next to the A12 highway. Nevertheless, Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), is hopeful that the green light will soon be given to carry out the plans.
“The plans have been put on hold for a while by legal proceedings before the Council of State. As soon as a judgment has been passed, we can move on,” her cabinet says. Whether the construction of the tramline could still be started this year – if there is a positive result of the Council of State – is not certain.
Faster than tram
In the meantime, the action group Openbaar Vervoer Nu (Public Transport Now) advocates transforming the planned tram line into a metro connection. “That has many advantages,” says Ruben Van Miegroet of the action group in the newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen. “On the one hand, a metro is faster than a tram, and, on the other hand, the metro in Brussels can make use of the existing metro line. In this way, the commuter gets to the heart of the capital even faster.”
In an initial reaction to the proposal, Minister Peeters says that the construction of a metro line is not included in the GRUP (Regional Environmental Implementation Plan), and that the plans provide for a tram bed and not infrastructure for a metro. Moreover, it would also cost more.
Nevertheless, it is feared that many people from Klein-Brabant and Waasland will want to use the tram toward the capital, with the result that the N16 and N17 will become even more congested. Wouldn’t it be better to shift the tram’s point of departure to Willebroek station, so that people can switch directly from the train to the tram?
The government wiped that remark off the table, but on the other hand, it does not rule out that the tramline could be extended to Boom and even Bornem in the future. Studies on this subject were already carried out seven years ago, and everything seemed infrastructurally feasible.
The express tram from Willebroek to Brussels is part of the Brabantnet project, in which the Flemish public transport company, De Lijn, wants to develop three new tram connections together with STIB-MIVB, the Brussels public transport company. The other routes are a ring tram from Brussels Airport over Vilvoorde to Jette, and an airport tram from Brussels-North to Brussels Airport.