“Metro line 3 without northern section unfeasible”
Plans for and work on the new metro line 3 in Brussels are advanced. When finished it is supposed to link Vorst with Evere through Sint-Gillis, the City of Brussels and populous Schaarbeek. The cost of the project has meanwhile exploded fuelling calls for the project to be scaled down and for the northern section – from the North Station to Bordet (Evere) to be abandoned. Local transport company MIVB says it can’t run services without a northern section.
In May Beliris, the federal construction company for Brussels, threatened to suspend work on the northern section insisting it was up to the Brussels regional government to decide whether this part of the Metro 3 project still had a future.
During the presentation of its annual report the Brussels local transport company MIVB took a clear stand. “Line 3 cannot operate without the northern section” said the company’s CEO Brieuc de Meeùs. To run the line properly it requires a depot for its rolling stock and this is not available on the southern section from the North Station over the South Station to Albert.
The progress of construction work at the Albert Station
The conception of Line 3 with a distinct southern and northern section has encouraged detractors of the project to press for the abandoning of the northern section now money is tight. Today the northern section is budgeted at 2.5 billion euros and that is a billion more than anticipated. The construction of Line 3 is progressing in two phases: the building of a southern section departing from the current Albert premetro station in Vorst via the South Station and the avenues of downtown Brussels to the North Station. Completion is pencilled in for as early as next year with this section of the line operating by 2025. Most of this route follows existing premetro tram lines and stations where tram services currently operate. A new Toots Thielemans station is having to be built adjacent to Lemonier, as this tram station was already underground when the premetro system was conceived. Premetro stations were built with the option of turning them into fully-fledged metro stations in time.
The second northern section runs from the North Station via Schaarbeek to Bordet on the border of Evere and Haren (City of Brussels). New tunnels need to be dug, new stations need to be built making this the most expensive part of the project. Completion was initially planned from 2025, but is now delayed till 2030.
The Brussels local transport company MIVB says work on the southern section is progressing apace. But construction is complicated by the need for a new 120-metre-long tunnel to accommodate the new Toots Thielemans station. Here the ground is swampy and there are fears of subsidence and stability issues.
Rising costs have reenforced calls for the northern section to be axed. The Brussels government will have the final say and has had to ask the federal government for extra cash to complete the project as planned.
The MIVB’s CEO Brieuc de Meeùs recently told reporters that trashing plans for the northern section was not an option for the long-term. The southern section could be operated by itself for a while, but in the long run this would be impossible due to the absence of a depot for rolling stock:
“The absence of a depot means that complicated nightly manoeuvres are required to get rolling stock to the right location for the morning. Maintenance cannot be carried out. A depot is required at the end of the line. There’s no room to construct a depot on the section from the North Station to Albert. This is possible at Bordet, where there is already an MIVB depot”.
Line 3 was initially conceived in 1969 when an ambitious plan was unveiled for the construction of five fully-fledged metro lines that would initially be operated under the premetro system. Completion was expected by the end of the last century. The existing tunnel route from the North Station to Lemonnier was opened in 1976 as part of the premetro line 3 linking Schaarbeek with Ukkel. At one point there were plans for Line 3 to be extended to Brussels Airport in the North and Linkebeek (Flanders) in the south, but these had to be shelved due to rising costs.
In 2014 the northern route was finalised with stations planned at Liedts, Collignon, Verboekhoven, Riga, Linde, Vrede and Bordet as well as a new depot for line 3 rolling stock in Haren (City of Brussels).