Belgian train company SNCB is launching a pilot project with direct reservations trains to and from the coast during the weekend of 5 and 6 June, aiming to use the system during the busier summer season.
These faster trains, called the "Coast Express," will supplement SNCB's usual offer and run directly to the coast, without stopping at intermediate stations, making them faster than regular trains.
From today (27 May), train passengers can book these trains via the SNCB website, as a reservation - which costs €1 per person per trip - is required on top of the price of a normal train ticket.
Introducing a reservation system for regular trains would "greatly limit the flexibility of the entire Belgian train system," which is why SNCB is now trying out this separate system, so as not to change anything about its usual offer.
Going from Antwerp-Central to Blankenberge will be 33 minutes faster with the express train than with a regular IC train. Travellers wanting to go from Brussels to De Panne will be 46 minutes faster.
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"This way, passengers will always have the choice between a train without a reservation that stops at different stations, and a train with a reservation that runs directly," the company said.
"Even more people will be able to travel to the sea with their family or friends, on faster more comfortable trains without stops and with guaranteed seats," said Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet in a press release.
According to him, this pilot project is an ideal way to investigate extra train services to the coast, on top of the usual services. "Based on people's experiences with this system, we can then quickly decide on additional summer offers."
During the weekend of 5 and 6 June, 20 of these trains will be running: 10 towards the coast in the morning, and 10 leaving the coast in the evening.
In the morning, they will depart from Antwerp-Central, Brussels-Midi, Ghent-Sint-Pieters and Liège-Guillemins, and arrive in Blankenberge, De Panne, Knokke and Ostend, where they will also depart in the evening.
According to SNCB, the direct trains should meet "the demand of day-trippers, including families, who want to plan their trip to the sea in advance, and be sure of their seat on a direct train."