La Hulpe

Infrabel is currently upgrading certain railway lines to four tracks. At La Hulpe, the railway trackbed has been widened to be able to accommodate two additional tracks that will be used by RER trains. To do this, it was necessary to redevelop and modernise the existing infrastructure, especially the civil engineering works. The section affected by this project extends for about 3 kilometres between Chaussée de La Hulpe and the Bakenbos underpass on line 161 from Brussels to Ottignies

Start of the works

21 March 2011

End of the works

The civil engineering works ended end of 2014.

Why are these works necessary?

The work is being carried out to facilitate access into and out of Brussels, and to stem the increase in road traffic that is currently choking the capital. Eventually, passengers will benefit from increased train frequency (on average four trains an hour during peak times) within a 30-kilometre radius around the capital. In this way, Infrabel is subscribing to a policy of sustainable mobility, in order to offer a valid alternative to the car.

Which works does Infrabel perform?

The aim of these works is to change the line from two to four tracks, starting by widening the railway trackbed. This central task is followed by the various modifications essential for good operation of future rail traffic. The bridges and other tunnels that cross the railway must be widened or modernised. Noise screens are to be provided for a large part of the zones being worked on; the embankments next to the railway must be reshaped and consolidated; not forgetting the work around stations and car parks. All this work is generally grouped under the term civil engineering.

When this civil engineering phase is finished, it is the turn of so-called railway equipment projects: the ballast (the chippings serving as a damper between the trackbed and the tracks), the sleepers, the rails themselves, and the metal structures supporting the overhead lines, the switches, the signalling system and the plantations must all be laid.

As well as widening the railway trackbed, the La Hulpe civil engineering project includes the renewal of the Chaussée de La Hulpe bridge, the Avenue de la Reine bridge and the Bakenbos underpass. Green walls are also part of the project throughout the section. A new, larger and more modern car park has also been built. The late delivery of planning permission for this car park has caused a delay in the planned end construction work for this phase, which should now officially finish at the end of 2014.

The widening of the railway trackbed will allow the laying, in later work, of two additional rail tracks on the west side of the existing tracks. This undertaking is not a minor job. As an example, no less than 120,000m3 of earth has been moved during this project (mostly without using the roads), which has also used 30,000m3 of concrete and 4,200 tonnes of steel. Over one hundred workers from different fields have worked together to complete the numerous planned operations, with the aid of construction and lifting plant, some of which weighed up to 800 tonnes.

Widened trackbed

Widened trackbed

The Chaussée de La Hulpe bridge has been completely rebuilt. After building part of the new bridge, located to the north of the old structure, road traffic was diverted over it to allow the old bridge to be demolished. After that all that remained was setting up the rest of the new structure and the finishing work as well as other arrangements for the new pavements. Its construction in phases allowed the impact on local road traffic to be limited. This was only completely interrupted for a single day, on 10 April 2013, for laying the final covering. The new bridge was completely reopened on 11 April 2013.  

The new Chaussée de La Hulpe bridge 

The new Chaussée de La Hulpe bridge

For its part, the new Avenue de la Reine bridge was brought into service on 21 February 2012. Slightly wider than its predecessor, it has more comfortable pavements and also offers better visibility for users. The fact that the new bridge is located in the same place inevitably implied a period of complete closure to all traffic, between the demolition of the old structure and the placing of the new deck, followed by essential finishes.

New Avenue de la Reine bridge

New Avenue de la Reine bridge

At the northern end of the construction site, at the border with the Flemish Region, there is also the Bakenbos underpass. This passage, where steps have been replaced by ramps, has also been widened and increased in height, notably to permit access to horse riders. The new structure was brought into use on 31 August 2012.

New Bakenbos underpass

New Bakenbos underpass

The new car park to be installed at La Hulpe station, in the previous car park, will be able to accommodate 383 vehicles on three levels. It will be accessible via Avenue Ernest Solvay. The major structural works for this car park will be completed for the end of 2014, and will be followed by various equipment and finishing works. Its commissioning must then receive prior approval from the fire service once safety requirements have been checked. The car park facades will not yet have been done when this takes place. This choice is motivated, on the one hand, by the phasing of the work which allows a certain number of places along Avenue Ernest Solvay to be retained, and on the other hand, by the necessity of reconstructing this road.

What are the next steps?

At La Hulpe, the next steps will then concern finishing of the new car park and, above all, the railway equipment work: laying the different parts of the tracks (ballast, sleepers, rails), the catenary infrastructure, the signalling system. These different projects, the schedules for which are still to be defined, will then take place exclusively on the newly widened railway trackbed.

What is done to prevent hindrance?

As for all RER projects, impact studies have been carried out to determine the measures to be implemented in order to limit the inconvenience caused by the planned increase in rail traffic. A notable consequence of these studies is the green walls (stacked earth troughs covered with vegetation) that have been erected on both sides of the rail tracks over this 3-kilometre stretch.

Green walls on both sides of the railway trackbed

Green walls on both sides of the railway trackbed

In addition, in collaboration with expert consultants, Infrabel carried out assessments of properties situated immediately adjacent to the site before the start and at the end of the works.

Such a large scale project inevitably disturbs local residents' daily lives, through HGV traffic, night-time and weekend working, diversions, loss of car parking, etc. Infrabel is taking many measures to reduce disturbance and to limit the impact when it is unavoidable.

Lastly, we are making every effort to limit night-time and weekend working as much as possible. Nevertheless, this type of work is inevitable given the fact that the train traffic needs to be maintained during the daytime. In this case, we distribute information leaflets in advance to all local residents concerned.

Do you have any questions?

Information is one of the keys to the success of projects of this scale. That is why the Infrabel Local Residents Information Centre is available by telephone (on freephone number 0800 55 000) or e-mail ( 7 days a week from 7am to 10pm. This service handles neighbours' questions and complaints, in direct collaboration with the people on site, and also organises information sessions and distributes information leaflets to inform local residents of night working, interruptions to road traffic, practical procedures needed for the project, etc.