Brussels government ask federal government more money for Metro 3 project

The Brussels government will ask the federal government for a budget increase for the planned works on the Metro 3 project in the capital. This is because the costs of constructing a tunnel and stations are piling up much higher than initially projected.

According to a report in the business newspaper L’Echo, Beliris, the federal fund that finances projects promoting the Brussels Region as a national and international capital, had initially suspended the new Metro 3 line project between the North Station and Bordet in Evere. But, in a reaction, the federal and Brussels governments denied such a decision.

Now, Federal Minister Karine Lalieux (PS), in charge of Beliris, will contact Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) about the Brussels government’s request for talks on funding. Despite the high costs, Lalieux stands behind the project.

Vacancy for ‘change manager’

L’Echo based the news regarding Metro 3 on a vacancy posted online by Beliris for a ‘change manager’ in its Human Resources department. It said: “Beliris may face the emergency suspension of the construction of the second phase of metro line 3”. And that Beliris is, therefore, looking for someone to guide the 15 to 25 employees working on the Metro 3 project to another internal position or a new professional roleshortlye.

The vacancy has since gone offline, and the cabinet of minister Lalieux did inform news agency Belga about a note handed over to the Brussels government on Monday, stating they would discuss the issue at the Council of Ministers on Thursday.

“Beliris did indeed present us with the proposals received at the beginning of this week,” said the spokesperson for Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) on behalf of the Brussels government. “The metro remains an important project for the Brussels government, but we are surprised, and at the moment, no decision has been taken yet.”

South Palace threatened

Work on the Metro 3 project is currently underway on the North Station-Albert section. But since mid-2021, the construction site at the South Palace has been at a standstill due to technical difficulties under the palace. Indeed, to connect the new Toots Thielemans metro station to Anneessens, a new 120-meter-long tunnel must be dug under the South Palace.

But the swampy subsoil – from the under-passing old river Zenne – is causing many headaches. To solve the problem, two options are on the table. Either continue with the same technique, but with heavier piles and an additional cost of 170 million euros, or partially demolish the South Palace (while preserving its façades) and then rebuild it later. The Royal Commission on Monuments and Sites is sounding the alarm on the latter solution.

€2,65 billion price ticket

Meanwhile, according to a recently redone estimate, the cost of building metro line 3 would have risen by 400 million euros to 2,65 billion euros. Brussels Budget Minister Sven Gatz (Open Vld) previously called for more funds from Beliris, also because the Brussels Region is heading for a 1,2 billion budget deficit by 2023, and the metro works have so far been left out of the budget.

On Thursday, the Brussels government then effectively decided to ask the federal government to examine its ability to increase its contribution to the planned metro North.

At issue is the planned metro extension between North Station and Bordet. For all intents and purposes, that work has yet to begin on that stretch of the project, and will require, among other things, the excavation of a tunnel between the North Station and Bordet, some 4,5 km long. There will be seven underground stations (Liedts, Colignon, Verbroekhoven, Riga, Linde, Vrede, and Bordet).

Examine the bids

Beliris had informed the Brussels government on Monday that it had received two bids to carry out those works. An initial analysis by Beliris shows that the amount of tenders is much higher than the estimates.

So now, in an official position, the Brussels government announces that it has taken note of this and confirms that the project is “a structuring pillar of its mobility and territorial development policy”.

According to the government, the reason why the final amount is significantly higher than the implemented estimate needs to be thoroughly investigated. It would, therefore, like to start a discussion with the federal government and Beliris. It also asks Beliris to examine the bids thoroughly and objectively examine how to explain the difference between the updated estimates and the bids.

The bids of the two candidates are thus 250% higher than the estimates of the two expert agencies appointed by the Brussels transport company MIVB/STIB and Beliris.

The section of metro extension between North Station and Bordet would normally be awarded next year.

‘Gross error’

In the Chamber yesterday, Minister Lalieux faced interpellations. She said she was open to that demand for analysis. “I defend the northern project,” Lalieux said. “It represents a significant investment, but with a great return in terms of jobs, economic development, and mobility.” However, it is not up to her, Beliris, or the federal government to decide on the future of the project. “Only the Brussels government carries that responsibility.”

The minister also commented on the job offer for a supervisor of change processes in the Human Resources department, which the Beliris administration had published. This includes a link to the suspension of the metro project. Lalieux called that a “gross error”.


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