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The high-speed network
If you want to go far fast, the high-speed network connects our country to the most important European cities in record time. This rail infrastructure was inaugurated at the end of 2009 and is of vital importance to Belgium. The high-speed network consists of 3 major axes connecting the country's borders to the capital. With the high-speed network, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany are only a stone's throw away.
The Belgian high-speed network consists of 314 km of railway lines, 200 km of which are high-speed lines. The speed of the trains varies from 160 km/h to 300 km/h. The high-speed network has been integrated into the existing infrastructure as much as possible to ensure that the new high-speed lines tie into the road and railway network. Infrabel also used existing railway lines. These railway lines were upgraded and are now an integrated part of the high-speed network. Since the inauguration of the high-speed network, passengers have saved a great deal of time.
An overview of time saved:
|Journey||Travel time before high speed line||High-speed line travel time (12/2009)||Time saved|
|Brussels - Amsterdam||2 hours 44 minutes||1 hour 51 minutes||53 minutes|
|Brussels - Cologne||2 hours 33 minutes||1 hour 57 minutes||36 minutes|
|Brussels - Paris||1 hour 58 minutes||1 hour 22 minutes||36 minutes|
|Brussels - London||2 hours 55 minutes||1 hour 51 minutes||64 minutes|
Brussels - French border
The western branch of the high-speed network connects Brussels with the French border. This high-speed axis has been in use since 1997 and is 71 km long. As it leaves Brussels the high-speed train uses the modernised existing railway line. From Tubeke the trains achieve 300 km/h on the newly constructed high-speed line. The western high-speed line is used by Thalys trains between Brussels and Paris, by Eurostar trains between Brussels and London and by TGV trains to various destinations in France.
Brussels – German border
This high-speed axis brings Brussels a lot closer to the German border and takes its passengers through some fantastic countryside. The route runs from Brussels to Leuven on a modernised existing railway line. From Leuven to Liège the high-speed train whizzes along a brand new high-speed line at 300 km/h. A few domestic Inter-City trains also use this new railway line to save time. From Liège to the German border, trains run at a speed of 260 km/h. Both high-speed lines are right next to the E40 motorway. The eastern branch of the high-speed network is used by the Thalys trains between Brussels and Cologne and by the German ICE trains between Brussels and Frankfurt.
Brussels - Dutch border
This line connects Brussels to the Dutch border. The connection between north and south in Antwerp allows the high-speed trains to go through a long tunnel under Antwerp and then continue their journey to the Netherlands. The construction of this tunnel transformed Antwerp Central station from a ten-track terminus to a through station with no less than fourteen tracks. Thalys trains run on the northern high-speed link between Brussels and Amsterdam.
The construction of the Diabolo link was an important milestone in the further development of high-speed traffic in Belgium. This new rail link directly connects Brussels Airport to the high-speed network. Passengers can now easily change from a flight to a train and vice versa.
High-speed trains go so fast that the drivers can no longer follow and interpret the signals along the track. This is why high-speed trains are equipped with an automatic train control system. These safety systems permanently monitor the speed of the train and automatically stop it if the enforced speed limit is not observed. The Belgian high-speed network is largely equipped with the European signalling system ETCS. The high-speed line to France uses the French train control system TVM. Infrabel wants to gradually introduce ETCS to the entire conventional Belgian rail network.