The national rail authority SNCB/NMBS is currently losing €70 million a month because of the coronavirus epidemic, CEO Sophie Dutordoir revealed.
The epidemic has introduced the need for people to work from home where possible, reducing the demand for rail travel. In addition, many retail outlets, bars and restaurants are closed for the duration, making it impossible for staff to go to work.
In the end, the SNCB is carrying at present around 10% of the number of passengers it does normally.
However, despite the critical loss of passengers, the rail service continues, having been considered a crucial service for bringing front-line workers like nurses to their jobs. The country’s trains are currently bringing 90,000-100,000 people to work every day, while 4,000 of its own staff of 18,000 are teleworking.
When the government prolonged the crisis measures until April 19, the SNCB did the same, by prolonging its “train service of national interest” for those who absolutely must travel for work.
But the losses declared by Dutordoir do not include the cost of reimbursing season tickets for holders who were not able to use their tickets while prevented from travelling – or extending their validity as the case may be.
In the meantime, the SNCB stresses that passengers are able to travel safely while observing social distancing.