There were two bidding rounds back in 2006 for manufacturers needed, for the SNCB/NMBS to come to a final decision. The final order is also twofold, as it concerns a fixed order for sixty machines for 3kV DC and 25kV AC catenaries, and additionally an option is included for another sixty machines, of which the configuration is still unknown. First machines of the first batch are being delivered in 2009. Finally they will be certified for Belgium, including the new high speed lines, Luxembourg, France (25 kV AC only) and border track sections in the Netherlands (to Roosendaal and Maastricht) and Germany (to Aachen). Therefore hey will be equipped with TBL1, TBL1+, TBL2, MEMOR, ETCS 1 (for Belgium and Luxembourg), KVB (France) und ATB-EG (Netherlands). GSM-R is needed to reach for Aachen, which is possible under 3kV DC tension.
Some artist impressions of the future 18 series for the Belgian railways from 2007.
Before the order was placed, it was thought that 'HLE 14' would be the designation for the new units, but finally number 18 was chosen, remarkable as in recent history the SNCB/NMBS already operated an HLE 18, withdrawn in 1999. Artist impression, as seen on this page, made clear that the HLE 18 would be a derivate of the latest EuroSprinter platform introduced in 2007, when the first LE 4700 locomotive was presented for the Portuguese railways. These machines gave a whole new face to the EuroSprinter platform, resulting from an extensive redesign of the body, frame and cabines to meet the latest European legislation on crash safety (EN 15 227).