On Wednesday 24 January 2018, Brussels' Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, Minister for Mobility Pascal Smet and Finance Minister Guy Vanhengel, announced the start of the renovation of the Leopold II Tunnel. At the press conference, a contract was signed covering the renovation work plus maintenance for the next 25 years. The Circul 2020 Consortium, consisting of Jan De Nul, BESIX and Engie-Fabricom, will carry out both the renovation works and the maintenance. Their offer emerged as the best after a negotiated European procedure.
"To minimize the impact on transit traffic, the tunnel can only be completely closed to traffic during the months of July and August and at night from Sunday to Thursday during the rest of the year. During daytime and on Friday and Saturday nights, the tunnel will remain open to traffic except during the summer", ", Mobility Minister Pascal Smet stated.
Preparatory works will begin in May 2018, with a series of flanking measures to ensure mobility remains as smooth as possible throughout the project.
Built in 1986, the Leopold II tunnel links the Koekelberg Basilica with the Brussels inner ring road ('petite ceinture'). 2.5 kilometres in length, it is the longest road tunnel in Brussels and one of the most complex. It is used daily by 40,000 Brussels' citizens and commuters in each direction. The 2015 and 2016 inspection rounds, ahead of the multi-annual tunnel renovation investment programme, showed that the tunnel is in need of in-depth renovation. The waterproofing, roadways and electromechanical installations all have to be renovated. Asbestos present in certain joints and paints must also be removed. In addition, all existing emergency exits will be renovated and 17 new ones will be constructed in line with European safety regulations. Finally, the tunnel will be revamped with totally new lighting and scenography.
In July 2016, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region launched a negotiated European procedure for the renovation and maintenance of the Leopold II tunnel, opting for a public-private collaboration using the DBM (Design-Build-Maintain) formula. In this formula, the renovation is contractually linked to a 25-year maintenance period. Making the contractors responsible for the subsequent maintenance also guarantees the quality of the renovation works. Five consortia competed for the contract, with Circul 2020 finally coming out on top. The contract represents 462.6 million euros over the next 28 years, including 264.7 million euros for the renovation proper, 13.1 million euros for maintenance costs during the works (maintenance responsibility is transferred from the start of the project) and 4.5 million euros to cover financing costs. An additional 180.3 million euros are earmarked for the 25-year maintenance phase.€ 31 million of the renovation cost has been retained and will be paid out in installments during the term of the contract, representing an additional guarantee for the authorities that the contract terms will be respected.
"The Circul 2020 consortium brings together three strong partners: BESIX, Jan De Nul and ENGIE Fabricom. By combining our efforts, we have extensive tunnel renovation expertise that we will apply for the benefit of the Brussels-Capital Region and tunnel users. Our offer will maximize the availability and security of the tunnel. For this, we have chosen to work with the most modern operating tools reinforced by a back-up system for many of the installations", said Filip Cocquereaux, president of the Circul 2020 consortium.
Concerned to minimize the impact of the construction site on mobility, the Brussels Government had, in its specifications, limited the possible closures of the tunnel to July and August (24/7) and during the rest of the year to night times (22:00 - 06:00) from Sunday to Thursday inclusive. Outside of the summer vacation period, the tunnel will remain open to traffic during the daytime and on Friday and Saturday nights. A maximum period of 39 months of construction will also be respected by the Consortium.
Now that the contractor has been appointed and the project starting date is known, Brussels Mobility is working on a series of flanking measures, in collaboration with bus and tram operators STIB and De Lijn, national railway company SNCB, the Flemish Region, the municipalities concerned and the emergency services. There will be a large-scale communication campaign on the site's impact for commuters, Brussels' residents and construction site neighbours. A mediator has been appointed for all site-related matters, and Brussels Mobility is currently drawing up a mobility plan for the area, in collaboration with partners and municipalities. Other worksites in the vicinity will be regulated and coordinated with the Leopold II tunnel project. Finally, together with the public transport operators, an analysis is being carried out on how to increase the transportation offering. The package of flanking measures needs to be ready in time for the first summer's closures.