Mobility Minister says ‘No’ to selling off railway service

Mobility Minister says ‘No’ to selling off railway service
© Belga

Federal Mobility Minister François Bellot has come out against a suggestion that Belgium’s railway company, SNCB, should be sold, saying that instead of privatizing, which was not on the cards, the company needed to be modernized and that was already being done. Bellot (Reformist Movement, MR) was responding to a proposal from the Minister of Mobility of Flanders Region, Flemish liberal Alexander De Croo to privatise the National Railway Company of Belgium, SNCB.

Bellot had already said as much in a new book on mobility. What is required, he said, is to bring about “modernisation, a new business culture, adapt governance, opt for less complex structures, better management, all in the service of the travellers.” 

Among the values on which his action was based, “safety, punctuality and communicating to users” were at the core of his priorities, he said.

The MR minister rejected the idea of privatization which, in England, led to higher prices without enhancing the service. In such a scenario, there is a risk that the small and medium-sized lines might disappear, he argued.

According to Bellot, the only way to make public transport a real alternative to cars is to keep it as a public service, which does not preclude opening its board of directors, for example, to mobility experts, including foreign ones.

Much has already been done under the current government and certainly more than by previous governments, to modernize the railways, he argued. In this regard, he mentioned raising productivity, organizing union elections, establishing a guaranteed minimum service, investing 5.3 billion euros and purchasing new rolling stock, all of which had led to an increase in passenger traffic.

“And the two companies, Infrabel and SNCB are today profit-making, which allows for future investments for travelers,” he added.

The Brussels Times

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