Antwerp makes significant tram changes

The Belgian city of Antwerp improved the public transport sector with the opening of an extension of the tram network, in the north of the city, and a new tunnel in the city centre. Antwerp is an important region of Flanders, it also serves as a major port and airport, a major logistical and economic hub in Europe. The need for mobility is enormous in this region. Increasing traffic congestion and reduced accessibility of Antwerp and the port, however, lead to heavy economic losses and affected the viability and safety of the entire region. The mobility of tomorrow, therefore, requires a continuous effort.

Together with the Belgian national railway company and Flemish transport company De Lijn, the municipal authorities are working on the optimisation of the public transport network. Masterplan 2020 provides for a tram connection for Deurne, Ekeren and Wilrijk and for redesign of the Leien and Operaplein, due to enter commercial service in 2018. A number of the largest public transport infrastructure works fit into the framework of the area oriented programmes in the strategic Spatial Structure Plan. For example, the Eilandje district will be made more accessible with new lines, the Green Singel programme includes a new tramline (Singel line), and a ‘Quay Tram’ will ride along the Scheldt River Quays. In addition, the arrival of the high-speed train, the transformation from terminus station to through station and the renovation of the station building were key actions in the Central Station Area programme.
The expansion of the city’s tram network falls within the scope of the Railway City image, which is part of the strategic Spatial Structure plan. The authorities want to stimulate the use of the tram as a sustainable electric mode of transport. Within this scope they invest in accessible tram stops, paying special attention to senior citizens, wheel chair users and people with a disability. The municipal authorities furthermore see the tram network as a structuring element for the Lower Network and the Urban Centres. Moreover, the tram network is not only optimised on the city’s territory, it will also be connected to the whole Antwerp region.
Antwerp’s urban rail network is a typical pre-metro network, which means trams using underground sections in the city centre and run partly on separate paths along streets in outer parts.
In the northern district of Luchtbal, Line 6 has been extended by 2 km to serve a park-and-ride station and public transport interchange near the E19 and A12 highways. The extension adds four new stations to the network: Kineoplis, Luchtbal Kerk, Dublin and P+R Luchtbal.
The opening of a new 0.8km link between Astrid Premetro station and Stadspark has enabled the extension of lines 8 and 10 to the south of the city. The new connection includes a 500m tunnel beneath Frankrijklei. Line 8 services now terminate at Bolivarplaats, while Line 10 continues to Schoonselhof park-and-ride station in Hoboken.
The final goal of the Antwerp agglomeration is that, by 2020, half of all public transport journeys are carried by urban rail transport or by bicycle.
Also, an important project will see the introduction of a new light rail line in Antwerp, Noorderlijn (the Northern Line), starting 2019. The Northern Line tram will connect the city center, the Islet and the north of Antwerp. This is a project of the Flemish public transport company De Lijn, the city of Antwerp and the Flemish Roads and Traffic Agency.

This article was published in the June issue of the Railway PRO Magazine that analyses the latest and most important railway projects around the world.

by Elena Ilie

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