BELGIUM: Detailed engineering design and development work is to get underway shortly for the construction of a third metro route through the centre of Brussels, following approval of the scheme by the Brussels Capital Region administration on March 26. The fully-automated Bordet – Albert Line is expected to open for revenue service in 2024.

Under the proposals agreed between the region, city transport operator STIB and the federal government’s investment fund for the capital, Beliris, the line would combine the existing north-south premetro tram tunnel between Brussels Nord and Albert via Brussels Midi with an extension at the northern end.

STIB and the Brussels Capital Region would be responsible for conversion of the premetro, which is primarily served by high-frequency tram routes 3 and 4. This cross-city tunnel includes interchanges with the existing metro lines 2 and 6 at Rogier and Midi, and with lines 1 and 5 at De Brouckère. While much of the premetro was built with a view to eventual conversion, a new alignment would be required to bypass a section of the city’s original shallow tram subway at Lemonnier, which dates from the 1950s.

Beliris began consultations in 2012 over options for the 4·4 km northern extension, before selecting a preferred alignment which would run in tunnel from Brussels Nord through the Schaerbeek district before turning east to an interchange with SNCB at the existing Bordet station. This broadly follows the existing tram routes 32 and 55. Intermediate stations are envisaged at Place Liedts, Colignon, Place Verboekhoven, Square Riga, Tilleul, and and Place de la Paix in Evere.

STIB is expected to begin public consultation for the project at the end of this year. Beliris says construction of the extension would start in 2019, with a single 9·8 m diameter tunnel being excavated using a tunnel boring machine.

‘This new metro line is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Brussels for the next decade’, said the region's Minister for Mobility & Public Works Pascal Smet. ‘Along with the remodelling and pedestrianisation of streets in the city centre, the project will improve mobility and contribute to a better quality of life for residents, commuters and tourists.’