SNCB offer of rental umbrellas sees collectors swarm and customers complain
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SNCB offer of rental umbrellas sees collectors swarm and customers complain

Credit: SNCB

An announcement by Belgian Transport operator SNCB that it will rent umbrellas to customers at Midi station has led to mixed reactions, with some questioning whether efforts would be better spent improving existing services, and others trying to work out how to buy the blue ones.

From the start of this week, customers at Brussels-Midi station can borrow an umbrella from the SNCB for free for 24 hours, and will only have to pay (€1/day) if they keep it longer than that.  This will continue up to 15 days, after which the charges will stop, SNCB said on Twitter.

“We want to offer travellers an extra service in the ‘last mile’ to their destination. Depending on the results, the project may later be extended to other stations,” SNCB spokesman Bart Crols told De Morgen.

Customers, however, have been quick to dissect the plan, with complaints ranging from the cost of the service to their feelings that the company should focus on punctuality and cleanliness rather than umbrellas.

The response hasn’t been entirely negative, though, with some praising the move as a way to make sure they don’t get wet during a surprise shower. Others have suggested (t)rain could have been a better name for the pilot project, and still others just want to know if the umbrella becomes yours after you keep it for 15 days (and pay the €15).

Currently, 200 recycled plastic umbrellas will be available via 7 stands located throughout the station. Travellers can unlock an umbrella digitally via Apple Pay or Google Pay, or by scanning their credit or Maestro card.

It’s unclear at this time what will happen to the project in the long run, or if 200 eager collectors will quickly grab all the available umbrellas

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times