The new Benelux train is currently being tested in Belgium to enter service in 2025

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Alstom ICNG trainset at Rotterdam Centraal © wikipedia

Alstom’s first Coradia ICNG train has been in Belgium since June for tests. This rolling stock, ordered at the initiative of the Dutch railways NS, is expected to enter commercial service in principle in 2025 on Benelux trains.

The Benelux Amsterdam-Antwerp-Brussels trains were created in 1957 but are currently run with renovated cars built in the 1980s. These are not high-speed trainsets but trains operated hourly as an Intercity between the two capitals.

In the 2000s, it was planned to replace the Benelux trains with a V250 high-speed train called “Fyra”. But this new train, ordered from the late AnsaldoBreda (now Hitachi Rail), only ran for a few weeks between December 2012 and the first weeks of 2013 before being definitively banned from the Belgian and Dutch networks due to multiple breakdowns.

The Dutch railways NS intend to replace the rolling stock of the Benelux trains again, but with a different policy and above all reliable rolling stock. The specifications this time provided for self-propelled trainsets that could also run at a maximum speed of 200 km/h on the Dutch and Belgian high-speed lines.

In May 2016, the French manufacturer Alstom won the tender to supply 79 trainsets from the “Coradia Stream” range for the Dutch InterCity Next Generation (ICNG). In November 2018, Alstom and the NS formalised the opening of a new assembly line for these ICNG trains in Poland, at Alstom’s Katowice plant.

In 2019, the NS added 18 “Benelux” trainsets to the current order, a “Belgian version” which has a luggage space and additional toilets. The difference with the Dutch 79 is that, in addition to 25kV AC and 1.5kV DC, Belgian trains have eight boxes instead of five and must be able to run under the Infrabel 3kV DC catenary.

One of these trains, the “3301” fresh from the factory, arrived in Belgium at the beginning of June via Aachen and was transferred to the workshop in Forest (Brussels-Midi). With a length of 165m, it can carry nearly 400 passengers and is equipped with European ERTMS / ETCS, Dutch ATB EG and Belgian TBL 1+ security systems. Approval on the Infrabel network began a few days later with static tests in Schaerbeek.

Between the end of June and July, the first tests took place at the traditional Belgian test site which is none other than line L94 between Ath and Silly.

The ownership of the trains would remain in the hands of the NS, with SNCB/NMBS only marketing the Benelux trains. Currently, this service is operated between Amsterdam and Brussels by trainsets of 7 Dutch cars and TRAXX locomotives. These trains are already running, but at 160 km/h, on the high-speed line between Antwerp and Breda, as well as between Breda, Rotterdam and Schiphol. In the future, therefore, the ICNGs will operate the same service but at 200 km/h, with much better comfort.

Source: Frederic de Kemmeter in RailTech.be

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