New ‘fast’ train connections will operate daily between Brussels and Luxembourg by the end of 2026 under a letter of intent signed between the two governments on Tuesday, the latest in a long series of pledges to upgrade the line.
Transport Minister François Bausch re-iterated a promise to cut the travel time between the two EU capitals to two hours, in a joint letter signed with his Belgian counterpart Georges Gilkinet.
The upgrade project started in 2007, with €132 million coming from European funds. However, both countries have since squabbled over the cost, which is set to cost some €750 million. The works on Luxembourg’s side of the border cost roughly €100 million, Transport Minister François Bausch said in 2021.
A previous letter of intent was signed in 2016 between the two countries, promising a two-hour link by 2023.
The European Commission responded positively to a joint request in March 2021 from the two countries to financially support the modernisation of the line, with fresh funding set to come from the bloc’s pandemic recovery fund.
In Tuesday’s letter of intent, the two countries said a ‘fast’ train between the capitals will be introduced from December 2026, but did not outline how much time such a connection would save. The Transport Ministry did not respond to a request for clarification from the Luxembourg Times.
The countries have also committed to making a joint bid by the end of this year for additional EU funding to upgrade final sections on the line by 2029, which would enable more frequent services. Two high-speed IC trains would operate between the cities each hour once the work is complete, the governments said.
The goal is to double both passenger and cargo traffic on the rail network between the two countries by 2040, according to the document.
Luxembourg’s government is also assessing the possibility of removing several level crossings along the network, the joint letter added, with a view to cutting journey times.
A working group will be set up, reporting to both ministers, to oversee the development of the plans. “The commitments included in this letter of intent will be implemented in stages following a timetable to be established,” the document added.
A large aim of the project is to encourage Belgian cross-border workers – who overwhelmingly opt for the car – to switch to the train, Luxembourg’s transport ministry said in a press release issued after the signing of the joint letter.
“Every day, 45,000 Belgians travel between the two countries. Currently, 85% of these commuters still use the car to make this trip,” the ministry said.
Whatever happens with the project in the coming years, Bausch will not be around to oversee it. The transport minister said in 2019 he would not stay in office after the next parliamentary election, which takes place on Sunday.