Interview: Light rail Maastricht-Hasselt

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The planned line between Hasselt and Maastricht is the first cross-border light rail connection between Belgium and the Netherlands. How do you think others can profit from your experiences? 

P.Vandenbergh: 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. Moreover, it is likely to provide references for cross-border connections between other countries within North-West Europe as well, such as between Belgium and France.

What were some of the biggest hurdles you’ve encountered until now?

R.Lebouille: What proved to be quite time consuming was preserving political commitment on several levels in the two countries. The task wasn’t made any easier with the financial crisis. It also took a long time to get approval for a zoning plan from the Maastricht City Council and the Dutch Council of State.

A cross-border project like this includes a great many stakeholders. How did you keep things functioning between the two countries?

R.Lebouille: After comparing the Flemish and Dutch project planning, a critical path was identified, which has become leading for the cross-border master planning. In order to carry forward with this master plan, important political decisions and important steps in the tendering procedures were synchronised. One partner, Dutch national infrastructure owner ProRail, had less influence when legal status for the freight track was changed from main rail track to a regional line under jurisdiction of the Dutch Province of Limburg.

You have been involved in the RoCK project from the beginning. What would you say were the main benefits for De Lijn?

P.Vandenbergh: We have benefited from RoCK on many levels. It was a well-organised knowledge and discussion platform, and for us it served as a catalyst for cross-border activities. Naturally, we profited from the finance instrument. Through RoCK we gained access to similar projects abroad, and we could benefit from experience gained there. On the political front, it was a platform to encourage decision-making.

Project ended December 2015