Sneltram preparations have begun
Werken aan de Ring is committing significant resources to Brabantnet. This comes in the form of three tram and trambus lines to run between Willebroek and Brussels-Noord, one of which will travel parallel with the A12. They will cover a distance of 29 km within 40 minutes; a huge time savings over current public transport capabilities.
New stops are planned in Willebroek, Londerzeel, Wolvertem, Meise and Strombeek-Bever. The Sneltram will run along the east side of the A12 motorway from Willebroek to Londerzeel and then along the west side of the A12 motorway from Londerzeel to Brussels. It will then follow the route of tram line 51 through Tour & Taxis and take the new Suzan Daniel Bridge over the canal to Brussels-North Station. High-quality bike facilities are also planned along this route.
Preparations are already underway. In 2021 and 2022 the permit and tender process will take place. In 2023 the start of construction for the tram line will begin.
We spoke to Joost Swinnen, integrated project manager at Brabantnet, and asked him a few questions.
Why is investment being made in the construction of the Sneltram?
Joost: Time, quality and mobility. Time is the new money. That’s why public transport has to be fast and dependable. With the Sneltram, journeys to and from Brussels will only take half as much time as they do today. And better quality public transport will also persuade vehicle drivers to stop contributing to the traffic jams in the Flemish periphery around Brussels. This will, in turn, improve the quality of life in our region. In addition to the Sneltram, the bicycle highway that will be built between Brussels and Willebroek means that soon we will be able to move around our region much more sustainably and healthily.
What will the timing and the process be?
Joost: In 2018 the Flemish Government decided to ring fence a zone along the A12 for the Sneltram. Then in 2020, the locations were decided for tram stops, the bicycle highway, cycle bridges and bicycle tunnels, as well as what modifications to road infrastructure were going to be required. These modifications were authorised in April 2020 when the government approved the “Starting Note”. A “Project Note” will be drawn up in 2021. In the Project Note, the infrastructure modifications set out in the “Starting Note” will be further developed and designed. It will include elements like the height of the bicycle bridges over the A12, or the length of the platforms where the Sneltram will stop.
After the Project Note is approved, the next step will be to identify the impact on the environment in an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) study. Alternative measures will be proposed for specific interventions that will have a major impact on people and/or the environment, such as noise barriers, adapted road surface material or other speed-reducing measures. Together with this environmental impact study, the environmental permit is applied for. We plan to obtain the single (environmental) permit in 2022.
After the permit has been granted and the land has been acquired, the project can be carried out by a contractor. This contractor will be appointed by means of a public tender procedure on behalf of De Werkvennootschap. The search for a suitable contractor is planned for 2023.
Why are there surveyors and soil analysts on the site at the moment?
Joost: The project has gained momentum. The architects and designers are hard at work to design and plan the tram route and to design the surroundings around the tram stops. In order for the architects to be able to do their work well, they need accurate information about the existing situation, such as the measurement of the boundary with the A12, the measurement of the areas along the A12 where the tram will be located and the condition of the soil and the subsoil. The infrastructure, especially the tram infrastructure, the bridges and the tunnels, must have a firm foundation in the subsurface.
The surveyors are also establishing the exact boundaries of the zone next to the A12, where the tram is going to be situated. To do this with precision, they visit the sites involved.
Have the owners of the land parcels concerned been informed of these measurements?
Joost: Yes, and we have not only written to the owners of the parcels involved, we have also written to the owners of parcels adjacent to them. The surveyors have been tasked with collecting all the existing information about the land parcels concerned. They have to include everything, including historical agreements. That’s why they need not only the land registry information for the land on which the tram line will sited, but also for the bordering parcels.
Will there be expropriations? How does that work?
Joost: We will try to avoid expropriating land. We will be talking to the owners of the land parcels in cases where part of their land is needed for the tram route and the tram stops. Invitations for initial discussions with us will be sent to the landowners involved next year. They will gain insight into the precise zone required for the tram and how we calculate the purchase price. That is why we are taking time to negotiate this and we assume that we will be able to come to an agreement with each owner. If this proves not to be the case, the owners can appeal to the mediator for the Flemish Government. This mediator is a contact point for the owners and will assist them in coming to a resolution.
Unanswered questions about the Sneltram?
Be sure to take a look at the project page or the frequently-asked questions regarding Sneltram.
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