More heritage renovation at Tour & Taxis

Tim Harrup

The renovation of a railway bridge may not be the most significant piece of real estate news, but when it involves a historic construction and it is part of the Tour & Taxis rehabilitation programme, it takes on a new significance. As reported by the Brussels Times and confirmed by the Brussels authorities, the historic Pont du Jubilé railway bridge is to be jointly renovated by the Brussels Region and the Belgian Railway Company (SNCB), after which it will become the property of the Brussels Region. The desirability of renovating this monument, doubtless little known to the majority of Brussels inhabitants, is underlined by Pascal Smet, Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage, also quoted by the publication: “Seeing the Pont du Jubilé in this condition saddens me every time. We are going to make the bridge beautiful again. It will be another landmark on the Tour & Taxis site.” The process of getting the renovation underway had been, in his words, “dragging on for years.” Those who are accustomed to trying to get real estate projects underway in the Brussels Region may not be surprised by this last remark.

The renovation itself will be managed and financed jointly by and the SNCB, and is expected to cost €8 million, this cost to be equally shared by the two partners. On completion of the project, the ownership of the bridge will be transferred to the Brussels Region for the symbolic price of one Euro.Following the renovation, and once the bridge becomes operational, Brussels Mobility will be responsible for maintenance, as well as in charge of the bridge’s management.

The Belgian State Railways built the bridge, which was previously called “Le Pont Monumental,” over a hundred years ago in 1904 during the construction of Boulevard du Jubilé and Boulevard Émile Bockstael. The objective was to bridge the railway lines leaving from Tour & Taxis. The Pont du Jubilé, as it is now called, has a central span of 41 metres and was listed as a monument by the government of the Brussels-Capital Region in 2007. The bridge is supported by two abutments and multiple polygonal bluestone pillars, decorated on either side by monumental columns in polished granite, with bluestone bases and heads. The bridge originally had wrought-iron lanterns in Art Nouveau style which were attached to the pillars. A metal parapet has since replaced the original wrought-iron balustrade decorated with Art-Nouveau motifs. The Tour & Taxis site railway tracks were dismantled in 2001. It is difficult to imagine, but during its heyday as a customs clearance sit, around 300 railway tracks entered the site.