After a successful weekend pilot run in early June, the national railway service, SNCB, is now offering direct trains requiring prior reservation to and from the Coast, both on weekdays and at weekends.
This service, called Côte-Express, will be in addition to the usual trains. Beginning on Saturday 3 July, it is available to and from the stations of Ostend, De Panne, Knokke and Blankenberge. Reservations can be made on the SNCB Internet site.
This additional service, which will run throughout the summer, is an express one, with no stops at intermediate stations. In addition to providing the would-be passenger with a guaranteed seat, the trains will arrive more quickly at destination. The journey will take anywhere between a few minutes and almost an hour, depending on the destination.
On summer weekends, 20 direct daily trains, 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening, will run from Liège-Guillemins, Bruxelles-Midi, Ghent-Sint-Pieters or Antwerp-Central – the four stations from which large numbers of people take the train to the coast – to Ostend, Blankenberge, De Panne or Knokke and back. On weekdays, only four trains with reservations (two to and two from the coast) will run per day between Bruxelles-Midi and Ostend.
Reservations are possible up to 15 minutes before departure. They can be made on the SNCB site for 1 euro, plus the cost of a valid train ticket or pass. To take the Côte-Express, each passenger needs both a reservation and a ticket (or another transport pass) valid for the route, the SNCB stressed.
All procedures that exist for assisting people with reduced mobility apply to the Côte-Express.
Accompanied children under the age of 12 can travel without a ticket, but also need to have a reservation costing 1 euro. Foldable bicycles can be stored for free under seats, while a cycle voucher needs to be bought for other types of bicycles. However, a place for a bicycle cannot be guaranteed on board.
At the end of summer, the pilot project is to be assessed to determine the next steps forward.