Belgian rail to axe 2,000 jobs in ten years

Belgian rail to axe 2,000 jobs in ten years
Railways during a previous strike. Credit: Belga/ Benoit Doppagne

The companies in charge of operating the Belgian railways, SNCB and Infrabel, will be cutting 2,000 jobs in the next ten years as a result of digitalisation and infrastructure investments.

The jobs will solely be cut via redundancies through retirement, SNCB's spokesperson Bart Crols explained. The national railway operator will see a net loss of 1,100 jobs disappear by 2032.

"As in the rest of society, we are constantly digitalising, which is resulting in assistant positions not being necessary. Such waves of getting rid of jobs have already been organised in the past, and there will be more in the coming years," he told The Brussels Times.

"Mainly, the roles that are being cut are operational and support positions."

Mixed messages

This news comes amid reports of staff shortages within the SNCB, clashing with this announcement. However, Crols stressed that the company is also continuing recruitment to increase the supply of staff in areas with shortages.

"We will continue to keep on recruiting. This year, we will take on more than 1,000 people, 60% of whom have already been recruited and trained," he said. Training staff, especially to become train conductors, take months, which is why the company launches recruitment campaigns quite regularly.

At SNCB, 1,771 jobs will be eliminated by 2032, however, the recruitment of 666 train conductors and ticket inspectors to meet higher volumes will bring the net loss of jobs to 1,105 jobs.

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By 2040, Belgium is also looking to massively drive people away from travelling by car and relying on trains instead, and in order for this to succeed, is working to improve the services available, including by organising train traffic more efficiently, rather than building new infrastructure.

"There will be more trains per hour in the years to come as part of this plan, so more staff members will be needed for this push. This is what we are working on now," Crols stated.

Investing in infrastructure

Railway network manager Infrabel's new management agreements meanwhile state that the company is looking to cut reduce its staffing to 9,216 employees by 2032, 900 less than it currently employs. The reasoning behind the job cuts is similar to SNCB's: Investments in infrastructure require less maintenance.

However, the trade unions have responded with discontent, stating that there is already a shortage of 2,100 people which sometimes preventing trains from running on time, telling De Tijd that the situation must be stabilised before growth can occur.

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