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AB InBev 'beer trains' to use new rail connection to Brussels port

09:43 20/06/2024

Rail network operator Infrabel is putting the finishing touches on the reopening of a route linking the port of Brussels to the Belgian rail network, aiming to create alternative routes to noisy and polluting container traffic by road.

The reopening of the railway line was announced last year and will be finished quickly in only a week or two, Bruzz reports.

It is expected to serve as a key factor in making the Port of Brussels a hub for multimodal freight traffic via rail and waterways.

“These are becoming increasingly important for major exporting companies,” Gert Van der Eeken, the Port's director general, told Bruzz.

“Don't forget that Europe imposes that by 2050 more than 50% of road transport must shift to more environmentally friendly alternatives such as rail or waterways.”

The greening of logistics was one of the priorities of the outgoing Brussels government.

The reopened railway line will connect the right bank of the outport in Schaerbeek to the Belgian – and therefore European – railway network. This will also improve access to the Schaerbeek-Formation railway site, opening up prospects for turning the site into a base for logistics companies.

A rail link there is not entirely new: there used to be one, but it fell into disuse after a complicated legal dispute. The old route was not ideally located, either.

While the railway is almost finished, the project is still somewhat delayed compared to the original plans: trains will not be running in full immediately this month, said Van der Eeken. Some technical aspects still need to be tested and there are still some licensing issues.

“Our works will be finished on 30 June, as planned,” Infrabel said, and the Port of Brussels expects the new link to be fully operational sometime this autumn.

Among others eager to skip the road traffic is AB InBev, which says it will use the new rail link for "beer trains".

Van Moer Logistics, the company that won the 20-year concession to operate the container terminal in the outer port, aims to double container traffic in Brussels between 2022 and 2032 and it is the carrier for AB InBev.

The new route will allow beer from the Leuven and Jupille breweries to be transported directly by rail and then immediately by ship via the port of Brussels to the port of Antwerp, and then the rest of the world.

“If you drink a Leffe in South America soon, it could well be that it will have passed through the port of Brussels,” Van der Eeken said.

The Port of Brussels hopes not only for outbound logistics flows, but also inbound ones, for example, towards the nearby European Centre for Fruit and Vegetables (ECFG) on Werkhuizenkaai, next to the early market Mabru.

“Why couldn't fruit from southern Spain be imported via rail or water?” the port authority suggested.

“That would at least save a lot of trucks on European roads.”

Brussels' morning food market, Mabru, is located about a kilometre away from the new rail link to Brussels Port.

Written by Helen Lyons