Belgian railway company SNCB will close the ticket offices in 44 of its stations by the end of 2021 due to the increasing number of tickets getting bought digitally, it announced on Monday.
Of the 550 train stations in Belgium, 135 currently still have ticket offices, but SNCB will close 44 of them by the end of the year: 19 in Flanders, 3 in Brussels and 22 in Wallonia.
"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.
Additionally, the opening hours of the ticket offices in 37 other stations will be drastically reduced from 1 March, by closing in the afternoon or on Sunday, for example.
Waiting rooms, however, will remain open, and the company will install automatic locking systems. Additional patrols by Securail and investment in new equipment, such as surveillance cameras, will ensure passenger safety.
After the closure, travellers will still be able to buy tickets digitally (via the app or the website) or via the ticket machines in the station, which should enable the elderly and people with reduced mobility to still buy a ticket.
For anyone who still has problems, SNCB temporarily provides stewards in certain stations to explain how such the ticket machines work.
At the end of 2021, 91 of the 550 stations will still have a manned ticket office, which is about 16% - still more than France (13%), Germany (6%) and the Netherlands (4%). Until then, there will be a transition period, during which the counters will only be open two or three days a week.
SNCB stressed that the trend towards more digital purchases was strengthened by the coronavirus crisis, but was already noticeable before that.
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.
The Brussels Times