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Belgian train seats are empty 75% of the travelling time

Dutordoir wants to better spread out the crowd through 'more flexible rate formulas'. Credit: Belga

Most trains are largely empty when they are driving most of the time, according to Sophie Dutordoir, the CEO of Belgian railway company NMBS/SNCB.

“There is a huge difference in our country between trains during rush hour and trains during the rest of the day,” said Dutordoir in an interview with De Tijd, adding that the average seat in a Belgian train is only taken about 25% of the time.

“During rush hours, more than five times more people take the train than during off-peak hours,” said Bart Crols, the spokesperson for SNCB, based on data from the Imperial College of London, which recently studied how well or how badly the Belgian railway company performs compared to others, reports De Standaard.

More traffic during rush hours seems very logical, “but in our neighbouring countries, the gap is much less pronounced,” according to Crols. “We need to encourage people to take the train during off-peak hours, and to fill up the trains during the day, too. That’s more cost-efficient,” he added.

Dutordoir wants to better spread out the crowd through ‘more flexible rate formulas’ with more expensive tickets during busier times, for example.

However, it would be better to do the opposite, according to Peter Thoelen, of the travellers’ organisation TreinTramBus, reports De Standaard. “Offer cheaper tickets during quiet times. The bus company De Lijn is also thinking about more expensive fares during rush hour. But we feel that it is better not to talk about increases at the moment: make the offer more attractive to the traveller first,” he added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times