Following the announcement by Belgian railway company SNCB on Monday to close ticket offices in several of its stations, Minister for Mobility Georges Gilkinet has officially asked its board to amend the decision.
Due to the increasing number of tickets being sold digitally, SNCB made the decision to rid 44 stations of its ticket offices, 19 in Flanders, 3 in Brussels, and 22 in Wallonia, by the end of 2021. Responding to this announcement, Gilkinet contacted SNBC to inform it of his disapproval of the decision, and to request guarantees for the comfort and service provided to the travellers.
“We must not leave anyone behind. Even older or vulnerable people must be able to take the train easily so that they can move around smoothly and freely”, Gilkinet said in his letter to SNCB. He added that it is important to provide all these services for travellers in order to make the trains attractive and accessible to everyone.
In addition, Gilkinet insists that SNCB enter into dialogue with local authorities and local economic traders to make stations lively.
Gilkinet also asked the board of directors to revise the list of counters considered for closure based on dialogues with municipalities concerned and to introduce a moratorium on station counter closures for which there was no user agreement with public service.
He further asked the company to guarantee passengers access to a covered and heated waiting area at the stations concerned one hour before the first train and one hour after the last train and to take concrete measures to tackle the digital divide, especially for the elderly and the most vulnerable, so that they can more easily buy train tickets or obtain information.
Of the 550 train stations in Belgium, a mere 135 currently still have ticket offices.
“These are mainly small stations that together represented only 6% of ticket sales in 2019,” said the railway company, adding that between 60% and 90% of the time that the offices are open, no tickets are sold.
The stations in which the ticket offices will close by the end of this year are: Ans, Bertrix, Beveren-Waas, Binche, Chatelet, De Pinte, Diksmuide, Gouvy, Harelbeke, Heide, Heist, Jambes, Jette, Jurbise, Kontich-Lint, La Hulpe, Lede, Lessines, Leuze, Liedekerke, Luttre, Marbehan, Mariembourg, Mechelen-Nekkerspoel, Marchienne-Au-Pont, Menen, Ninove, Opwijk, Peruwelz, Poperinge, Rhode-Saint-Genese, Rixensart, Rochefort-Jemelle, Ronse, Saint-Ghislain, Silly, Ternat, Tielt, Torhout, Veurne, Wavre, Waterloo, Virton, and Zaventem.