In recent days, work has begun on one of the most important European infrastructure projects: the Seine-Nord Europe canal, which should see the light by 2028. The 100-kilometer-long water course must connect the Seine basin with the river network of Belgium and Holland. The venture has economic and environmental implications, and could also disrupt the activity of ports on the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea.
“On the water transport front, today Paris is isolated from the industrial center of Northern Europe where the river network centered on the Rhine and the Meuse has been active for some time – explains Mathieu Strale, researcher in geography at the Université Libre de Bruxelles ( ULB) -. The attempt is precisely to include the Ile de France region in the Benelux water transport network ”.
A project worth over 5 billion euros (and 107 kilometers)
The project foresees investments of 5.1 billion euros, of which 2.1 billion of European funds. The goal is to create a river highway between Le Havre, Paris, Liège and Antwerp. The 107-kilometer-long canal under construction is to connect Compiègnes to Aubencheul-au-Bac, crossing four French departments. Basically, the infrastructural work must serve to connect the Seine basin with the Schelde basin. It includes seven locks and 63 bridges, including three canal bridges, one of which – 1,330 meters long – will be used to cross the Somme.
The Seine basin is currently quite isolated. It is connected to the French and European river network only by small rivers and narrow canals, across the Paris river which reaches the port of Le Havre. The goal is therefore to free traffic, building a waterway that can allow the transit of the largest barges, those up to 185 meters long, 11 wide, capable of transporting up to 4,400 tons of goods. Their impact is economic, but also environmental.
A barge of this size transports as many as 220 trucks in one go. The company responsible for the construction of the canal estimates that a boat of this type passing through the waterway every half hour is equivalent to passing a 25-ton truck on the roads every five seconds. Ultimately, the goal is to eliminate two million heavy vehicles per year from the transport routes in the Benelux and Northern France.