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European Commission makes substantial contribution to study into improvement of Terneuzen-Ghent railway


Early this year, Zeeland Seaports, the Port of Ghent, Terneuzen municipality and the Zeeland provincial executive submitted a research proposal on behalf of a wide consortium of companies and government agencies to improve the rail infrastructure within and between the port areas of Terneuzen and Ghent. The European Commission recently approved funding for this CEF application, which means it will be contributing some 650,000 euros (50%) to the study.

Room for improvement to existing rail

As part of the joint rail strategy of the Port of Ghent and Zeeland Seaports, the rail bottlenecks have been catalogued, such as the Sluiskil bridge (NL), the Wiedauwkaai bridge (B), and the Sas van Gent (NL), Zandeken (B) and Ghent-Seaport marshalling yards, as well as the 'missing link' on the east side of the canal. The latter is regarded as the biggest bottleneck, while at Ghent-Seaport there is a need for longer tracks. Companies in the cross-border Gent-Terneuzen region are at a competitive disadvantage as a result of longer travel times and the additional costs incurred.

For this reason, Zeeland Seaports and Port of Ghent, together with Terneuzen municipality and the Zeeland provincial executive, submitted a research proposal for improving the rail infrastructure to the European Commission. The province of East Flanders and the city of Ghent joined them as co-financiers. The outcome of this three-year study will provide an important tool for further investment decisions by public authorities for the necessary work to improve the track. The study examined all the facets needed to prepare for those decisions.

Among other things, it looks at the risk-sensitivity of the track in the region (including the Sluiskil bridge and Wiedauwkaai bridge crossings) and the rail capacity that will be needed in the future in this rapidly developing area. The possibilities for passenger transport by rail will also be examined and various financing options explored.

Substantial contribution for study with broad support

The three-year study will cost a total of about 1.3 million euros. The European Commission will pay half: around 650,000 euros. Zeeland Seaports, the Zeeland provincial executive, Terneuzen municipality, the Port of Ghent, the city of Ghent and the province of East Flanders will pay the other half.

The study enjoys very broad support: ProRail, Infrabel, Outokumpu, YARA, Vlaeynatie, Verbrugge, OVET, BZW, Portiz, EVO Fenedex, KNV, VEGHO-VOKA, the Flemish Department of Mobility and Public Works, the Scheldemond Euregion and Zelzate municipality have actively communicated the importance of this study to the European Commission. The Belgian federal government and the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment have let the European Commission know that they are in favour of the study.  

Jointly submitting the proposal and obtaining a significant subsidy suggests that a merger between two port areas and authorities has real potential at European level.

Improving sustainability, investment climate and competitiveness

The Port of Ghent and Zeeland Seaports are both ambitious in terms of sustainability. Improved rail infrastructure has an important part to play in a sustainable modal split because it will enable a shift from road transport to rail. In addition, the presence of sufficient and reliable railway capacity will increase the competitiveness of the companies based in the ports and will make the ports an even more attractive location for companies.

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