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Stib inaugurates 'new' tram line 18

15:54 02/09/2023

Brussels public transport operator Stib has inaugurated a new tram line 18, as part of the reconfiguration of Albert metro station, opposite Forest park.

The grand opening of the line, in time for the new school year, marked the culmination of three years’ work on Albert metro stop – where tram 18 will run as far as Van Haelen in Uccle.

It coincides also with the end of the works on Place Albert, which has finally reverted to being a public square instead of a construction site.

Commuters are also being treated to an art exhibition on the walls of the new stop courtesy of photography students from Brussels’ schools.

By 2030, Albert metro station is scheduled to welcome three tram lines as well as the planned new metro line 3 between Evere (Bordet) and Forest (Albert).

“This site is not just a renovation,” said Stib chief executive Brieuc de Meeùs. “It is a total transformation of a station that has been completely dismantled and is now destined to become a multimodal transport hub. And it is one step forward towards it becoming the future metro 3 terminus.”

In practice however, line 18 is not new – it is just only a shortened version of tram line 51, which has now been permanently split in two.

Commuters now have to change at Albert to reach the north of Brussels - the section between Brussels-Midi and Stade metro stations.

This has provoked criticism from urban tourism organisation ARAU (the Atelier de recherche et d’action urbaines), which is calling the new development “a rupture of responsibility for commuters”.

It will be even worse with the future metro line 3, ARAU said, condemning this project that is costing more than €4 billion as “a real degradation of service”.

Citizens action group BRAL went further. It said the change was useless, especially as line 51 will remain permanently in two sections.

“The 51 tram linked the south of Brussels to the centre, Molenbeek, Jette and Laeken perfectly,” said the urban movement that campaigns for a sustainable Brussels. “But since the reconstruction of the Chaussée d’Alsemberg, this is no longer the case.”

Stib, meanwhile, said the project was still evolving. “You must understand the difficulty in managing works of this size and maintaining a service at the same time,” a spokesperson said.

Brussels mobility minister Elke van den Brandt (Groen) added: “The works will continue to require patience, but ultimately Albert station will provide direct and easy connections.”

She added that this metro stop has been improved for people with disabilities as there is now a lift for people with reduced mobility.

Stib said Albert station was "designed from the outset to be transformed to accommodate a metro line".

Photo: Timon Ramboer/Belga

Written by Liz Newmark