Belgium’s oldest train station in Tienen threatens to collapse

According to a stability study commissioned by the city council, the right-wing of the station building in Tienen is in danger of collapsing. The building has been languishing for several years, and the Belgian railways NMBS/SNCB wants to assign it on a long lease to a partner who must also be responsible for its renovation.

The mayor of the town in Flemish Brabant has now ordered the NMBS/SNCB to carry out stability works within seven working days. Otherwise, a penalty of 5,000 euros per day will be demanded.

Oldest Belgian station building

The Tienen station building dates from 1840, making it the oldest station building still standing in Belgium. However, the protected building has been empty for some time, and the city council has already pleaded several times with NMBS/SNCB to renovate it.

Meanwhile, the city council also carried out a stability study. “This shows that there is an immediate danger of collapse of the right wing of the building and that stabilization works must be carried out urgently,” says Mayor Katrien Parthia (CD&V). By demanding a penalty of 5,000 euros per day, the city now “expects NMBS/SNCB to finally take responsibility to stop the deterioration of the beautiful station building.”

Pending the works, a security perimeter has been set up around the building and on platform 1 of the tracks. The per meter will not affect train traffic, but passengers will have more restricted access to Platform 1.


In response, NMBS/SNCB says it is analyzing the stability study and is going on-site with its specialized services. Some time ago, NMBS/SNCB decided to give the building a new use. To do so, the railway company started looking for a partner who would take the building on a long lease.

“There were several interested parties, but we did not receive sufficient guarantees regarding the renovation of the building, which would have been an obligation for the long leaseholder,” the NMBS spokesperson explains. “We, therefore, decided to carry out the necessary renovation work on the building ourselves and then to start looking again for a new use. Part of the building will remain reserved for train passengers, with a waiting room, ticket offices, and sanitary facilities.”

According to the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, apart from Tienen, there are also problems with the Lier and Bruges stations in Flanders. Despite their protected status – there are 62 protected stations in Flanders today – NMBS/SNCB has not always been the best manager.

Flemish Minister Matthias Diependaele (N-VA), responsible for Architectural Heritage, has also decided to inspect all other protected stations to determine how the other buildings are doing.

An inventory shows that NMBS owned more than 300 vacant buildings in January 2020, including 116 vacant station buildings. NMBS/SNCB wants to breathe new life into some of these train stations by encouraging local projects focusing on new consumer habits, such as distributing fresh groceries to the clients via a traditional, weekly greengrocer stall or a locker system.

International rail hub

Safety and architectural concerns aside, employers’ organization Voka Flemish Brabant wants to work on an international rail hub in Tienen. The hub should facilitate goods transport. Today, companies in the wide region around Brussels still face too many mobility problems and traffic jams, and a railway hub should help eliminate these.

According to figures from Voka, it would take 25,000 trucks off the road every year, accounting for a 23,6% reduction in CO2 emissions. The employers’ association is looking at a 50-hectare site in Tienen, but where it wants to realize the hub will not be revealed yet.

Tienen was an important hub on the Brussels-Liège railway line and is still considered the heart of the Belgian sugar industry. At the affinerie Tirlemontoise, 5,000 farmers process 3,5 million beets a year.


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