Metro and train passenger numbers highest since start of pandemic
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Metro and train passenger numbers highest since start of pandemic

Credit: Belga

The number of passengers using the metro in Brussels and trains across Belgium reached levels similar to pre-Covid times, as many returned to work in the office at the start of this month.

Compared to September last year, as well as since June this year, Brussels’ public transport company STIB recorded a 5% increase in passengers travelling by metro.

“We are very pleased with this result. Passenger capacity for the metro is currently at 67.4% – the highest result achieved since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis,” STIB’s spokesperson An Van hamme told The Brussels Times.

Van hamme explained that the number of metro passengers remained below that for trams and buses throughout the coronavirus period “as metro passengers are very often commuters, meaning they stayed at home most of the time to telework.” By contrast, buses and trams are more often used by locals meaning that their numbers were less affected.

Now the number of metro passengers is nearing those on buses and trams, which remained around 67.4% compared to the reference period in February 2020, just before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the number of passengers travelling on national railway company SNCB’s trains also peaked during the week of 6-12 September.

“The figures from the last working week showed that on a weekday we averaged 78% of the passenger numbers compared to the same period 2019, and this is the highest percentage since the beginning of the crisis,” SNCB’s spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman told The Brussels Times.

“So we really notice that people are starting to commute again and that they are opting for trains when doing so,” he added.

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Both Van hamme and Temmerman noted that teleworking remains the rule for many companies based in Brussels, and highlighted that most universities and colleges won’t start until later this month, meaning that these figures could further increase.

“Commuters remain our main clientele, so we definitely think that once more people return to the office, this trend will continue and that numbers will even increase further,” said Temmerman.

According to STIB’s latest figures, more people are also using public transport when travelling for leisure.

“While on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 September we were still at an average of 61% of passengers in the metro and 67.5% above ground, on Saturday 4 September we reached an average of 69% for metro, tram and bus,” said Van hamme.

Currently, STIB’s passenger numbers are slightly above those seen on public transport networks in other European cities, according to the company’s data.