Project overview

Under the framework of previous Interreg projects and the Belgian Spartacus plan, a light-rail connection between Hasselt and Maastricht is being developed. This investment will boost the connectivity between Maastricht University and Hasselt University, two important knowledge centres. The travel time will be halved from 71 to 36 minutes, thus strengthening existing cooperation.

The local students are extremely dependent on public transport. They will benefit from study, exchange and apprenticeship possibilities when this connection is ready.

Innovative aspects

  • What makes this rail connection special is that it serves the two historic city centres of Hasselt, Belgium, and Maastricht, the Netherlands, with a tram between the two cities, but at speeds of a normal train in some sections using existing freight tracks (up to 100 km/h). With the faster travel time and the additional comfort a light rail offers, it is expected that more people will use public transport to travel between the two cities. Not even travel by car will be able to compete with the fast city-to-city connection time of approximately 40 minutes.
  • The tram connection is part of the Spartacus plan, which consists of an integrated public transport network of train, light rail and bus. For the new network, which is operated by Flemish operator De Lijn, three new light rail connections are planned – the first of which is the connection between Hasselt and Maastricht.
  • Aside from the being the first cross-border connection between Flanders and the Netherlands, the line is innovative in particular because the safety case and the contractual arrangements integrate the needs of a number of stakeholders.


  • The length of the track infrastructure will be 38 km, of which approximately 5 km are in the Netherlands. The RoCK investment has been earmarked primarily to develop the safety case for the light rail connections. This safety case had to take into account regulations in Belgium and the Netherlands for tram-like operations within historical city centres, for operations outside city centres with speeds of up to 100km/h, as well as specific regulations for operation on freight tracks. For De Lijn to obtain the necessary safety certificate, an inventory of safety hazards was established, which resulted in a joint view of risks and actions needed by both the Netherlands and Belgium. The resulting safety case integrates general safety regulations, freight line safety regulations, and regulations for the operation of light rail as an urban tram from stakeholders in two nations. With the safety case in place, tendering procedures could be started for the rolling stock.
  • After several years of complex negotiations, a transnational agreement was ready to be signed by all parties involved: the Flemish Government, De Lijn, the Province of Limburg (NL) and the city of Maastricht. This agreement includes arrangements on a number of factors. Yet most importantly, it stipulates that De Lijn will operate the line connecting Hasselt and Maastricht for 35 years. So not only was it possible to get a relatively large group of stakeholders to agree on the terms, it was also possible to ensure long-term service on the route.


  • Knowledge and expertise from the project can be transferred and used on other Dutch-Belgium cross-border lines, particularly in regard to the transnational agreement and how such contracts can be structured. The project could also be a reference for cross-border connections between other countries within North-West Europe, such as between Belgium and France.
  • Advice for similar cross-border projects: set aside more time for project planning.

Project ended December 2015