Transport in Belgium

Transport in Belgium

This article is about transportation in Belgium.


"Main article": Rail transport in Belgium

Total of 3536 kilometres, (2563 km double track (1998)), of which 2950 km are electrified, mainly at 3000 volts DC and 351 km at 25 kV 50 Hz AC (2004) and all on standard gauge of 1.435 m. In 2004 the NMBS/SNCB carried 178,4 million passengers a total of 8676 million passenger-kilometres. NMBS/SNCB is the National Railway Company of Belgium.

Due to the high population density, operations are relatively profitable, so tickets are cheap and the frequency of services is high. The NMBS/SNCB is permanently updating its rolling stock.

The network currently includes two high speed lines suitable for 300 km/h traffic: HSL 1 runs from just south of Brussels to the French border, where it continues to Paris and Lille (and London beyond that), HSL 2 runs from Leuven to Liège. HSL 3 will run from Liège to the German border near Aachen and HSL 4 will run from Antwerpen to Rotterdam (in The Netherlands). HSL 4 and HSL 3 are currently under construction and will be ready in April 2007 and at the end of 2007 respectively. Both lines are equipped with ERTMS (ETCS level 2 + GSM-R, access and fall-back in level 1).

Electrification is at 3 kV DC, with the exception of the new high-speed lines, and of two recently electrified lines in the south of the country which are at 25 kV AC.

Trains, unlike road traffic, run on the left.

Rail links with adjacent countries

* All adjacent countries use the same 1.435 m gauge.
* Netherlands - different voltage 3 kV DC/1500 V DC. The change of voltage occurs at the border; 3 kV Belgian trains can proceed under reduced power to the first station past the border (Roosendaal or Maastricht). Border crossings are at:
** Essen, Visé ("Wezet")
** Meer (high speed line)
** Hamont, Lanaken and Zelzate (freight only)
** Eisden (planned, opening scheduled between 2012 and 2017)
** Achel (closed, reopening scheduled between 2012 and 2017)
** Sint-Gillis-Waas (closed), Turnhout (closed)
*Germany - different voltage 3 kV DC/15 kV AC. The change of voltage occurs in Aachen station where there is a switchable track so that 3kV monovoltage trains can reach Aachen. Border crossings are at:
** Welkenraedt
** Kelmis-Hergenrath (includes high speed traffic on the upgraded line)
** Losheimergraben, Raeren, Gemmenich (freight only).
** Steinebrück (closed),
* Luxembourg - different voltage 3 kV DC/25 kV AC. The change of voltage occurs in Luxembourg station; the section from the border to Luxembourg is at 3 kV DC. Border crossings are at:
** Arlon-Sterpenich, Gouvy
** Lengeler, Benonchamps, Lommersweiler (closed)
* France - different voltage 3 kV DC/25 kV AC. The change of voltage occurs at the border, except for the high-speed line which is 25 kV throughout. Border crossings are at:
** Mouscron ("Moeskroen"), Tournai-Blandain, Quiévrain, Aulnois, Erquelinnes, Athus, Froyennes
** high speed line at Esplechain
** De Panne and Momignies only irregular freight traffic
** Heer-Agimont (only touristic trains)
** Menen, Comines-Warneton, Leupegem, Antoing, Tournai, Péruwelz, Dour, Doische (closed)

Metros and Light Rail

In Belgium an extensive system of tram-like local railways called "Vicinal or Buurtspoor" lines crossed the country in the first half of the XIXth century, and had a greater route kilometre length than the main-line railway system. The only survivors of the Vicinal system are the Kusttram and some sections of the Charleroi metro. Urban tram networks exist in Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels, and are gradually being extended.

Metro systems in cities:
*Brussels, operated by MIVB/STIB.

Light rail systems in cities:
*Brussels, operated by "MIVB/STIB",
*Antwerp, operated by De Lijn,
*Charleroi, operated by TEC,
*Trams in Ghent, operated by "De Lijn".

Other lines:
*Kusttram, covering almost the entire coast from France to the Netherlands - the longest tram line in the world. Operated by "De Lijn".

Some heavy metro infrastructures were built in Brussels, Antwerp and the Charleroi area, but these are currently used by light rail vehicles, and their conversion to full metro is not envisaged at present due to lack of funds.


* "total:" 149,018 km (2002):* "highways:" 1,729 km:* "regional roads:" 12,610 km:* "others:" 134,679 km


The highways in Belgium are marked with a letter A and a number. Most often however the European numbering system for the international E-road network is used. There is however not always a one-on-one relationship between the two numbering systems along the whole length of the highways.

*A1 (E19): Brussels - Antwerp - Breda
*A2 (E314): Leuven - Lummen - Genk
*A3 (E40): Brussels - Leuven - Liège - Aachen
*A4 (E411): Brussels - Wavre - Namur - Arlon - Luxembourg
*A10 (E40): Brussels - Ghent - Bruges - Ostend
*A13 (E313): Antwerp - Beringen - Hasselt - Liège
*A14 (E17): Lille - Kortrijk - Ghent - Antwerp
*A17 (E403): Bruges - Kortrijk - Doornik
*A18 (E40): Bruges - Veurne - Dunkerque


The ringways (or orbital roads) around bigger cities have their own series of numbers. The names start with a R then a first digit indicating the (old) province, and sometimes a second digit to further differentiate in between different ringways.

Some major examples are:
*R0 is the outer ringway around Brussels. The R20 and R22 are (parts of) inner ringways around Brussels.
*R1 is the southern half ringway and R2 is the northern half ringway around Antwerp.
*R3 is the outer ringway and R9 is the inner ringway around Charleroi. The inner ring is counterclockwise-only.
*R4 is the outer ringway and R40 is the inner ringway around Ghent.
*R6 is the outer ringway and R12 is the inner ringway around Mechelen.
*R8 is the outer ringway and R36 is the inner ringway around Kortrijk.
*R23 is the ringway around Leuven.
*R30 is the inner ringway around Bruges.

National roads

The national roads are marked with a letter N and a number.

The principal national roads fan out from Brussels, numbered in clockwise order:
*N1: Brussels - Mechelen - Antwerp
*N2: Brussels - Leuven - Diest - Hasselt - Maastricht
*N3: Brussels - Leuven - Tienen - Sint-Truiden - Liège - Aachen
*N4: Brussels - Wavre - Namur - Marche-en-Famenne - Bastogne - Arlon
*N5: Brussels - Charleroi - Philippeville
*N6: Brussels - Halle - Soignies - Mons
*N7: Halle - Ath - Tournai
*N8: Brussels - Ninove - Oudenaarde - Kortrijk - Ypres - Veurne - Koksijde
*N9: Brussels - Aalst - Ghent - Eeklo - Bruges - Ostend

Secondary national roads intersect these.

National roads have an N plus 1, 2 or 3 digits. National roads numbered with 3 digits are provincial roads, their first number indicating the province:
* N1xx Province of Antwerpen
* N2xx Provinces of Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant
* N3xx Province of West Flanders
* N4xx Province of East Flanders
* N5xx Province of Hainaut
* N6xx Province of Liège
* N7xx Provinve of Limburg
* N8xx Province of Luxembourg
* N9xx Province of Namur


2,043 km (1,532 km in regular commercial use)


Crude oil 161 km; petroleum products 1,167 km; natural gas 3,300 km

Ports and harbours

ea ports

*Antwerp - Port of Antwerp [] (one of the world's busiest ports)

"Source: Antwerp Port Authority"

*Bruges (Zeebrugge) - Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge [] (one of the busiest in Europe)
*Ghent - Port of Ghent []
*Ostend - Port of Ostend []

Main inland ports

Brussels - Port of Brussels [] (also accessible for ocean-going ships)
Liège - Port of Liège [] (one of the busiest in Europe)

European portuary context

European Sea Ports Organisation [ ESPO]
European Federation of Inland Ports [ FEPI]
Inland Navigation Europe [ INE]
2002 ranking of world ports by tonnage and by container volume (in TEU) [ Port ranking]

Merchant marine


with paved runways

"over 3,047 m:"6, including Brussels Airport.
"2,438 to 3,047 m:"8
"1,524 to 2,437 m:"3
"914 to 1,523 m:"1
"under 914 m:"6 (1999 est.)

with unpaved runways

"914 to 1,523 m:"2
"under 914 m:"16 (1999 est.)


1 (1999.)


*factbook 2000

See also


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