Car remains favourite transport mode in Belgium despite rising popularity of trains

Car remains favourite transport mode in Belgium despite rising popularity of trains
High-speed trains like Eurostar and Thalys are seen as good ways to travel to London and Paris. Credit: Belga.

Although the car remains the most popular means of getting around in Belgium, the train and night train are increasingly popular among the country’s citizens, especially to travel to nearby cities.

More and more Belgians are convinced of the advantages of the train when travelling abroad, a study conducted by the FPS Mobility and Transport into the travel habits of Belgians showed. The Eurostar and Thalys trains are considered the best mode of transport for travelling to London and Paris.

However, nearly 80% of respondents who travelled outside Belgium used the car as their main mode of transport, citing the flexibility and convenience that this mode offered.

This was followed by more than one in three people travelling by plane — chosen for its capacity to travel far and more quickly — while around 13% of respondents indicated they travelled by train for most of their trips, saying the ecological impact was an important factor.

Increasingly popular alternative

The survey did find that more than 60% of people said they are in favour of travelling long distances by train or night train instead of by plane or car in order “to limit the negative ecological impact.”

Credit: Marta Mieze / The Brussels Times

Belgian cities are already well-connected to major cities in neighbouring countries by high-speed trains, from London and Paris to Amsterdam or Berlin, which the latest survey confirmed are also seen as destinations for which travelling by train is considered an interesting alternative.

As part of a move to boost sustainable international mobility, Belgium announced last year it would be freeing up €2 million to make Belgium an international hub for night trains.

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Currently, the only night train that stops in Belgium, the NightJet of the Austrian railway company ÖBB, runs between Brussels (via Liège and Germany) with the Austrian capital Vienna as its final destination.

Plans have been announced by Dutch-Belgian company the European Sleeper to operate a service to Barcelona, with stops planned in Antwerp and Brussels, as well as night trains to French ski resorts and the Mediterranean coast.

However, the same company’s plans to run night trains from Brussels via Amsterdam to Berlin, Dresden and Prague have been postponed several times, raising questions about whether the rollout of night trains will be as quick as the rise in demand.

Belgians abroad once again

Despite some travel measures still being in place as a result of the pandemic, many Belgians (58%) travelled across borders for private or professional purposes in 2021. Holidays were the most common reason to travel abroad (80%).

Almost 55% of the respondents made between one and five trips abroad last year, while just under 4% of respondents made six or more trips.

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