ON DECEMBER 5 Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstad joined SNCB Holding Chief Executive Jannie Haek and his Infrabel counterpart Luc Lallemand to mark the signing of regional pre-financing accords that will release €400m for three railway infrastructure investment projects.

The deal provides €298·2m for the €458·7m upgrading of the Brussels - Luxembourg line, which began in 2006 for completion by 2013-14. Modernisation between Louvain-la-Neuve and the border at Sterpenich will allow line speeds to be increased from 120 km/h to 160 km/h, cutting journey times by 15 min to around 2 h.

Another €102·4m will go towards towards the €111·2m expansion of rail facilities at the port of Zeebrugge, which will be completed by 2011, and €5m has been allocated for track remodelling in the port of Brussels.

Under the pre-financing agreement, SNCB Holding will bring forward Infrabel's allocation out of the state support allowances for 2008 onwards, with the three regional governments of Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels-Capital funding the interest payments to permit an earlier start of work on schemes in their areas.