Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters cycled over the new bridge for cyclists that crosses the Albert Canal in Kuringen (Hasselt) along with Limburgâ€™s Mobility representative Bert Lambrechts, chairwoman Frieda Brepoels and Chris Danckaerts, managing director of De Vlaamse Waterweg nv. The new bridge is an important link in the north-south axis of Limburgâ€™s bicycle highway network and also links to the Albert Canal route.
The two old railway bridges over the Albert Canal in Kuringen were replaced with a single new higher arch bridge. The construction of the new bridge forms part of the project to increase the clearance height of all the bridges over the Albert Canal to 9.10 metres. Since then, 44 of the 62 bridges have been raised and 13 other bridges are in the process of being raised.
Brand new safe crossing for cyclists
The reconstruction of the railway bridge provided a unique direct opportunity to build a bridge for cyclists over the Albert Canal at a relatively limited cost. The link for cyclists was simply integrated in the railway bridge project and there was no need for a separate bridge for cyclists because the bridge for cyclists could be installed on the new railway bridge. The bridge for cyclists has been integrated in the Limburg bicycle highway network. This bridge has added a new link to the north-south axis of the bicycle highway network and also connects to the bicycle highway along the Albert Canal.
â€śThrough this project, we are investing directly in three highways: increasing the height of the bridges will make the Albert Canal more of a water highway than ever, the rail link will be optimised and the bridge for cyclists will strengthen the bicycle highway network. So through this project, we are investing in strengthening three alternatives to road transport at the same time. Freight transport by water will be easier and cyclists will be able to cycle across and alongside the water more easilyâ€ť, explains Lydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works. â€śSo we are making cycling to and from work more pleasant for cyclists. This may be an incentive for people to cycle more, not just as a leisure pursuit but also for commuting or getting to school. Thus an additional intervention to stimulate the cycling reflex as well as to achieve our objectives in respect of the modal shift to sustainable modes of transport.â€ť
â€śThe integration of towpaths in cycle route networks fits in with the multifunctional vision of our waterways, although it is important to manage potential conflicts with loading and unloading activities, for example. After all, we want to further strengthen the economic function of the Albert Canal in the interest of mobility and climateâ€ť, stresses Chris Danckaerts, managing director of De Vlaamse Waterweg nv.
2nd renovated track in service from 26 April
After the necessary safety tests and stabilisation runs, the 2nd renovated track over the bridge will be put into service on the morning of Monday 26 April so that trains will be able to run on both tracks again between Hasselt and Kiewit/Zonhoven. This is the final element from the site in connection with the renovation of a total of 6 km of track, catenary and signalling that needed to be carried out in order to adapt the rail infrastructure to the new bridge, which is 2 metres higher than the previous bridges. Trains have been using the 1st renovated track across the bridge since September 2020 and so from Monday, both tracks will be in use again.
As part of this, the level crossing in Vilstraat was also replaced with a tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians. It was necessary to do this because the new track here is 1 metre higher, which meant that it was no longer safe for road traffic in Vilstraat to cross the track. This tunnel has been open to cyclists and pedestrians since the end of March. In Monerikstraat, the new tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians opened before that (end of January).
Further finishing works will be carried out in the surrounding area over the coming months. The plan is for the works to be completed in the summer of 2021.Â The project will cost more than 23 million euros.
The Kuringen railway bridge project is a collaboration between De Vlaamse Waterweg nv, Infrabel and the province of Limburg with support from the European Union. The joint venture of Jan De Nul NV â€“ Herbosch-Kiere NV â€“ Victor Buyck NV â€“ Strukton Rail is carrying out the works. The engineering office is Arcadis â€“ Sweco.