The last trains on Saturday evenings and the first trains on Sunday mornings could be threatened by a plan by rail infrastructure company Infrabel to close down the network from 01.00 to 05.00 on Sunday mornings for works from next December.
The plan is laid out in a Network Statement published online by Infrabel, which is aimed at railway companies and other users, and which lays out details of access to and use of Belgian rail infrastructure.
The document speaks of “a programmes limit in capacity, which during a traffic-free period is reserved for Infrabel to carry out works,” later going on to specify “the allotted capacity is reserved for Infrabel on Sunday between 01.00 and 05.00, regardless of the intensity of use on the line, and that for the entire network”.
To clarify matters, the public transport users’ group TreinTramBus issued a translation: “This sounds especially cryptic and technical – which was perhaps the intention – but in fact it is very simple: in the night from Saturday to Sunday, the rail network will close down between 01.00 and 05.00, and no passenger or goods trains can run. The [rail authority SNCB/NMBS] will have to partly or fully scrap its trains which normally would have reached their destination after 01.00 on Saturday night, or started out on Sunday before 05.00.”
Among the trains likely to be affected, the group says, are the last IC train from Ostend to Eupen, passing through Ghent, Brussels and Liege; Ostend to Liege, Antwerp to Brussels and Antwerp to Kortrijk, all on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning trains affected would be the first trains from Brussels and Antwerp to Brussels Airport, as well as the first trains from the coast to inland destinations.
In addition to scheduled times, the measure would also extend down to trains which end their service before the cut-off time, but need to be transported to the depot.
Infrabel explains that its plan “has the advantage of clarity” for its commercial customers. “This way they know well in advance what rail capacity is available and what is not,” the company said.
For the time being, the document is a proposal. The details still have to be worked out together by Infrabel and the SNCB, which governs the operation of the train network. Meanwhile the users demand the immediate withdrawal of the plan.
“For us the permanent closure of the rail network on Saturday evening is excessive and indefensible. TreinTramBus demands that Infrabel and the minister responsible withdraw this measure definitively, and find a solution for works which is more considerate of passengers.”