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More trains to run as SNCB's future roadmap is approved

13:28 19/07/2023

An ambitious plan to expand and improve rail services in Belgium has been approved by ministers.

The move should come as welcome news for the country’s rail travelling public who have long complained about bad punctuality.

Plans for the future of the Belgian rail operator SNCB have now been formally approved by the Council of Ministers and announced by federal mobility minister Minister Georges Gilkinet.

They are a central plank of the SNCB's 2023-2026 “Rail 2040 vision” transport plan and the 2023-2032 public services contract.

The proposals include a 7.4% increase in rail services in Belgium, taking it to a total of 89 million kilometres of scheduled journeys per year.

The plan will be deployed in four successive phases (December 2023, December 2024, June 2025 and December 2025).

According to the plans, some 205 stations will see an increase in train frequencies - 24 of which will see more weekday trains, 109 more weekend services and 72 a combination of the two. In addition, 105 stations will benefit from an “extended range” on Friday and Saturday.

From this December, some cross-border services will be improved, in particular from Liège with the creation of a new direct rail link between the city and Aachen via Maastricht.

The package also provides for the long-term development of suburban services around the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Liège and Charleroi.

There will also be a new IC link between Leuven and Charleroi, via Ottignies and Fleurus.

Commenting on the measures, Gilkinet noted: “More trains means more customers, more revenue and more resources for SNCB and Infrabel and more goods on the rails.”

He added: "We want to put the train of tomorrow on the rails. The increase in the number of trains from December is a step in this direction but it in no way removes the obligation for SNCB to improve punctuality in the very short term."

Written by Martin Banks