- About Infrabel
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Infrabel was created in 2005 and so is still quite a young company. The activities of Infrabel, however, go back a long way; to the very first days of the railways about 175 years ago. Below is the history of the railways in Belgium in a nutshell.
The first railway line
5 May 1835 saw the inauguration of the very first railway line in Belgium: the line between Brussels and Mechelen. Not long after that, Belgium possessed a modern and extensive infrastructure: by 1850, the Belgian railway network encompassed an impressive 1,000 kilometres of railway tracks and thirty years later, that figure had quadrupled.
During and after the World Wars
During the two World Wars, capable railway staff were quick to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure. The year 1935 marked the start of a technical revolution with the electrification of the railway network. In the 1960s, however, road traffic became increasingly popular and even resulted in some local railway lines becoming unprofitable. A few of those lines were therefore shut down by the SNCB, while it continued its work on the electrification of the main axes.
Today the Belgian railway network totals 3,582 kilometres; 2,989 kilometres of which have been electrified. Meanwhile, Infrabel has also inaugurated its completed high-speed network. The first high-speed line was taken into operation as early as 14 December 1997 and proved to be a huge success: no fewer than 40 million passengers have since travelled on this high-speed line between Brussels and Paris.
From SNCB towards …?
On 1 January 2005, the former SNCB underwent an important reorganisation. Far-reaching changes were introduced in order to enable a progressive liberalisation of the railway sector, as dictated by the European Union. More specifically, the former SNCB was split into three independent companies, each with its own responsibilities: SNCB, SNCB Holding and Infrabel. An important aspect in this set-up is the complete independence between infrastructure manager Infrabel and transport company SNCB in the scope of future liberalisation.
So what is the current status with respect to liberalisation?
On January 2007, national and international freight traffic was completely deregulated. Passenger traffic was next, with international passenger transport deregulated on 1 January 2010.