On 30 November 2023, Voies navigables de France (VNF) and the Service public de Wallonie (SPW), members of the Seine-Scheldt EEIG, inaugurated the Condé-Pommeroeul canal at an official navigation ceremony attended by the French Minister for Transport, Clément Beaune, the Walloon Minister for Climate, Energy, Infrastructure and Mobility, Philippe Henry, the European Coordinator for the North Sea-Mediterranean (NSMED) Corridor Péter Balasz, and the Vice-President of the Hauts-de-France Region with responsibility for mobility and transport infrastructure, Christophe Coulon.
Closed to navigation since 1992 due to partial silting up, this 11-kilometre cross-border canal will soon be reopened to wide-gauge river navigation, enabling vessels of up to 3,000 tonnes to save half a day’s journey by avoiding a 30-kilometre diversion via the Nimy-Blaton-Péronnes canal. This reopening is at the heart of the Seine-Scheldt European link, which will connect the Seine basin, the Hauts-de-France seafront, the Scheldt basin and Northwest European ports. It also testifies to the exemplary international cooperation between the Belgian and French partners which enabled the construction of Seine-Scheldt network.
Since 2016, Voies navigables de France (VNF) and the Service public de Wallonie (SPW) have carried out major dredging and recalibration work, involving the extraction of 1 million cubic metres of sediment and the excavation of 450,000 m3 of earth. The work also involved widening and deepening the canal to allow the navigation of boats loaded with up to 3,000 tonnes (compared with 1,350 tonnes in the 1990s). This is an essential element in the modal shift, with a 3,000-tonne river convoy equivalent to 150 lorries avoided on the roads.
The widening of the Condé-Pommeroeul canal and return to navigation will help increase the transport capacity of the entire river network in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region: the traffic forecast for 2030 is 6.5 million tonnes with the expected commissioning of the Seine-Nord Europe canal, which is being built by the Société du Canal Seine-Nord-Europe.
This major project has also been subject to exemplary environmental management: the environmental measures taken (creation of a 34-hectare wetland and specific facilities for beavers and bats) accounted for 15% of the overall budget for the operation.
A total of €116 million has been invested in the reopening of the Condé-Pommeroeul canal. This achievement was made possible thanks to major financial support from all the partners: the European Commission (€35m through the Connecting Europe Facility), the SPW (€46.2m), the French Republic and VNF (€14m) and the Hauts-de-France Region (€21m).