The parties who signed the declaration of intent would like to see an optimal cross-border rail infrastructure. That is why the Rail Ghent Terneuzen project examined what exactly is needed to improve the railway in the cross-border port area of Ghent and Terneuzen.

The study project was co-financed by the CEF programme of the European Union. A total of 11 studies were conducted during the period 2017-2020. Three clusters of studies have been completed, providing insight into the bottlenecks in the rail network and the feasibility and technical viability of the most logical solutions. The SCBA has been completed and it has been examined how the investments can contribute to the optimal functioning of European rail corridors: North Sea Mediterranean, Rhine Alpine and North Sea Baltic. Finally, the financial studies on appropriate forms of tendering and European funding possibilities have been completed.

Status quo

In order to achieve an optimal cross-border rail infrastructure in North Sea Port, the studies carried out were supported by the European Union On the basis of this, we mapped out the requirements the steps to achieve them:

Study 1.   Traffic demand & capacity analysis
Study 2.   Risk & sensitivity analysis
Study 3.   Study on technical aspects
Study 4.   Land use and spatial planning
Study 5.   Geotechnical soil survey
Study 6.   Environmental impact assessment
Study 7.   Cross-border Societal Cost Benefit Analysis
Study 8.   Study on passenger transport by rail
Study 9.   Study on rail trajectories on North Sea Mediterranean and Rhine Alpine corridors
Study 10. Financial study on PPP approach and DBFME
Study 11. Financial study on EIB funding

Meanwhile, the studies have been completed, namely the traffic demand and capacity analysis, the study on the potential of rail passenger transport in the port area, the study on technical and environmental aspects (studies 3 to 6 combined), the social cost and benefit analysis, the study on rail passenger transport, the study on rail trajectories and the financial studies on appropriate forms of tendering and European funding and financing possibilities.

Concrete next steps towards implementation of the project are currently being determined.


Technology and environment

Studies 3 through 6 were conducted in one research cluster. Their final report was completed in February 2019. These studies, carried out by Arcadis, concern the technical and environmental aspects of possible solutions. The studies determined the feasibility, effects and risks of the following infrastructure elements:

  • Northern connection Zandeken & expansion of shunting station Zandeken
  • Simultaneity passing Wondelgem
  • South-East connection towards the Sluiskilbrug
  • Railway connection track Axel - Zelzate
  • Track-doubling Wondelgem - Zandeken
  • North-West connection towards the Sluiskil Bridge

The technical studies looked at the individual infrastructure elements, without considering their interrelationship. The objective of the study is to provide insight into the costs, effects and feasibility of these measures. On the basis of the SCBA, which will be carried out in the next phase, it can be determined which measures will actually be used, in which combinations and with which priority


Potential passenger services

The study, by engineering firms Goudappel Coffeng and Mint, shows that the passenger services on the railway between Gent and Terneuzen is comparable to similar cross-border regional railway lines. The study shows that the railway line between Ghent and Terneuzen has a double function: as a suburban network of Ghent to provide access to the nearby residential areas of Oostakker, the Canal villages and Zelzate and to provide access to the port. Further flanking measures are needed to actually convey the potential to the employees of the port area. Generally speaking, there is a potential of 2 to 3,000 trips (people) per day, or 700,000 to more than 1,000,000 trips per year.


Traffic demand and capacity analysis

Study 1 'Traffic demand and capacity analysis' was completed at the end of March 2018. In this study Movares and Transport & Mobility Leuven investigated the growth of rail transport in the period up to 2030. Next, the capacity of the existing rail network in the port area was investigated and the measures that could be taken to accommodate the expected growth were identified. Based on the current infrastructure, the simulation shows the following bottlenecks in the realistic scenario:

  • There is insufficient capacity between Terneuzen and Axel
  • There is barely enough capacity on the Sluiskil bridge
  • The single-track section north of Wondelgem is a bottleneck
  • The Gent-Zeehaven marshalling yard is tight
  • Terneuzen-Zuid railway yard is too small
  • The utility value of the railway in Zeeland Flanders is limited by many stops, low speed and no evening opening
  • Future restrictions are expected (particularly in NL) regarding noise and external safety

The study zoomed in on the possible directions for solutions. If a connection between Axel and Zelzate is realised, various bottlenecks will be eliminated: there will no longer be a problem between Axel and Terneuzen, not even on the Sluiskil bridge, there will be a more balanced distribution between the west and east banks, as a result of which the section north of Wondelgem will not be a bottleneck either. This will create a redundant network with increased rail transport reliability.


Cross-border Social Cost and Benefit Analysis (SCBA)

Study 7 'The Societal Cost Benefit Analysis (SCBA)' was completed by the end of 2019 In this study, Transport & Mobility Leuven examined the SCBA of possible investments in rail infrastructure in the Canal Zone Ghent-Terneuzen Starting from a base case (the reference situation without new projects), the SCBA analysed several possible solutions The solutions are combined with the expected growth of the economy and rail transport A two-scenario analysis was carried out: one for low economic growth and consequent transport demand, and one for high economic growth and transport demand. The SCBA comprises eight combinations of measures. The analysis of the effects of these combinations of measures is largely based on the capacity analysis performed by Movares (study 1) The elements Axel-Zelzate, South-East connection towards Sluiskil bridge and Northern connection Zandeken, or a combination of these, have the highest cost-benefit ratio score.


Integration into European corridors

Study 9 'Rail freight corridors' was completed in September 2019. In this study, Ecorys, based on its assumptions, investigated the function of North Sea Port in logistic and production networks. Recommendations are made to further develop this position/function within these corridors.


Financial study on PPP approach and DBFME

Study 10 'Financial study on PPP approach and DBFME' was completed in May 2020. In this study, Rebel looked into the method of contracting and realisation of the project This study included elements of the Public-Private Comparator (PPC) methodology. It examined whether tendering for and then implementing the project using alternative contract variants could lead to financial added value, in comparison with the 'traditional' way in which the project would normally be implemented.


Financial study of European funding opportunities

Study 11 'Financial study on EIB funding' was completed in May 2020. In this study, Rebel provided insight into the possibilities of funding by the European Union and the EIB, including the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and CEF.