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Belgium to increase its suburban train service around the country

S Trains - SNCB
12:48 27/04/2024

Belgium’s S (suburban) train service is set to expand, Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt (Greens) told Brussels Parliament’s mobility committee.

Further extensions to the S network are planned in and around the capital later this year and in 2025, she added.

The S Train is the suburban train network that serves five Belgian cities: Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Liège and Charleroi. It covers an area of approximately 30km in each city.

Notably, from June 2025, the S4 train from Aalst to Louvain-la-Neuve will run twice instead of once an hour on weekdays and there will also be a weekend service.

In addition, from December 2024, more night services will be offered on the network. The last trains will leave Brussels Central Station on Friday and Saturday evenings between 00.56 and 01.52.

These are the S1 (Nivelles – Brussels – Mechelen), S2 (Braine-le-Comte – Brussels – Leuven), S8 (Zottegem – Brussels – Ottignies – Louvain-la-Neuve) and S10 (Dendermonde – Brussels – Aalst) lines.

The government has justified the extension of the S-train network because train use in Belgium has increased by 15% at weekends. Small stations in particular are seeing a higher number of passengers, some 80% more, between 2019 and 2023.

But Brussels MP Anne Charlotte d’Ursel from the centre-right MR party said a real change in passenger numbers could only be observed by comparing travel patterns over the last 10 years. She criticised expansion of the network, and said that, “the Good Move plan includes the ambition to offer four trains per hour in each direction on the S network.”

She added that communication about the suburban network needs to be improved. Indeed, any English-speaking newcomer to the system might think that ‘S’ means slow, while it is the ‘L’ (local) trains which take the most time.

In general, it is not always easy for passengers to connect to S-trains from Brussels public transport operator STIB’s bus, metro and tram service. D’Ursel added: “Our group has proposed that train departure times should also be indicated on STIB signs.”

Photo: S Trains - SNCB

Written by Helen Lyons