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    Liberals want Limburg to be test case for privatising rail

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Open Vld, the Flemish liberal party, wants to turn the province of Limburg into an experimental field for the privatisation of the railways. The national railway company, NMBS/SNCB, has failed to improve its services in Limburg, said Patrick Dewael (Open Vld) according to NewMobility, so he proposed a plan to privatise the province.

    Dewael is using the province of Limburg in the Netherlands, where Arriva, a private partner of the government, successfully operates local bus and train connections, as an example.

    According to Open Vld, Limburg is the perfect experimental field to organise local train connections, while NMBS/SNCB keeps on managing fast connections to the rest of the country. The party wants to integrate this test case in the next federal coalition agreement.

    While the number of train passengers increases in the entire country, it is showing a downward tendency in Limburg. Allowing competition from a private partner should be a wake-up call for the NMBS/SNCB, just like the start of television channel VTM was for the official state channel BRTN (now één), according to Dewael. “Other similar successful examples of liberalisation are bpost (postal services) and Proximus (telecom),” he added.

    “Let’s make Hasselt a central hub where fast and frequent trains come together from all over Limburg,” explained Dewael. “This way we create a kind of aboveground subway.”

    Railway infrastructure will stay in the hands of the government but the passengers will not care about that, Dewael said. “What they want is a safe, reliable, comfortable and affordable alternative for the car,” he concluded.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times