A new direct railway line now connects the ports of Genk and Zeebrugge. On an annual basis, this will take some 12 000 trucks carrying containers off the road. “The rail connection promises significant benefits in terms of mobility and sustainability,” says Heike Ulburghs, General Manager of the Port of Genk. Flanders is making 200 000 euros available for the project until 2026.
Due to increasing congestion and work around the various ring roads of Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent, an alternative was sought to avoid waiting times and traffic jams.
“Specifically, this corridor with a load factor of 100% leads to 40 trucks being taken off the road per train ride. With three roundtrips per week, we can get to about 12 000 trucks per year, or 2,4 million road kilometers saved. These are significant figures,” says Heike Ulburghs, who has recently noticed a changing mentality among their customers.
“Companies now think more about efficiency. When you think of transport, you often still think of a truck, but that mindset is different now.”
Up to 80% CO2 savings
In 3,5 hours, the goods train runs from Genk to Zeebrugge or vice versa. “That is as long as by road if there were no traffic jams,” Ulburghs said. The 12 000 trucks taken out of traffic will also bring significant CO2 savings of up to 80% CO2. In time, an expansion to a daily connection is planned, depending on the occupancy of the current three rotations that Railtrax will run.
In the context of sustainability reporting, which will become compulsory from 2025, the connection already offers Limburg companies the opportunity to organize their transports more sustainably. For some years now, there has also been a connection to the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam via water from Port Genk, located on the Albert Canal.
In addition to bulk and heavy cargo, Port Genk wants to focus more in the future on the circular economy and rail transport in general.
Ambitions to double freight transport by rail
According to the transport outlook 2040 for passenger and freight transport, elaborated by the Federal Planning Bureau in cooperation with the Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport, freight transport by rail will increase by more than 28%.
However, road transport of goods will also increase +19,4 % by 2040. Road transport will remain the most essential mode of goods transport, with a 77% share in 2040. The projections assume no change in policy.
Currently, rail transports about 10% of freight in Belgium. However, through ‘Rail Roadmap 2030, ‘ an action plan involving some 20 organizations, including industry federations, ports, and rail operators, the ambition is to double rail transport by 2030.