The flagship theme for the 2022 edition of Riverdating is the Seine-Scheldt network, and this year it has just taken an important step forward: a new financing agreement has been signed with the European Commission, worth a total of 276 million euros.
“This renewed support is a hugely gratifying gesture of confidence, and demonstrates the strength of the combined efforts made since 2010, with a commitment to shared ambitions”, observes Marie-Céline Masson, manager of the Seine-Scheldt EEIG, the partnership responsible for coordinating the implementation of the network. It is true that the international cooperation of the four waterway stakeholders that make up the group (Voies Navigables de France, Société du Canal Seine-Nord Europe, Service public de Wallonie and De Vlaamse Waterweg nv) is both unprecedented and a wonderful example to follow. It is also true that the stakes are high.
The Seine-Scheldt will represent Europe’s biggest river transport network: 1,100 km of high-capacity waterways connecting six Belgian and French regions with a total of 40 million inhabitants. “This cross-border, multimodal, efficient and sustainable transport service will not only create more than 175,000 jobs,” Marie-Céline Masson points out. It will also encourage the movement of goods and people, boost economic development and contribute to achieving the carbon-cutting targets of the European Green Pact. ”
The network is gaining ground
For the network to be completed, the Seine-Nord Europe Canal – the missing link between the Seine and Scheldt basins – must be built, while many existing waterways need to be regenerated and modernised. On the ground, these projects are making progress, and the new European funding will be invaluable when it comes to carrying on the work that has already begun. It will be used, for example, to finance studies on the high-capacity river link between Bray and Nogent, as well as the extension of the Quesnoy-sur-Deûle lock in France, renovation work on the Ronquières Inclined Plane in Wallonia, and the upgrading of the Roeselare-Lys canal in Flanders. “It will also make it possible for us to complete a symbolic project: reopening the Condé–Pommeroeul canal to navigation,” adds Marie-Céline Masson. “The reopening in 2023 of these six kilometres of waterways linking France to Belgium, after being closed for 30 years, will be a wonderful illustration of the success of our partnership and the benefits of Seine-Scheldt!”.