SNCB will launch a pilot project to offer flexible subscriptions for home-work journeys in June, hoping to meet the demand expected to come with an increase in teleworking, according to a press release from the Belgian rail company.
The flexible train pass (“Flex Subscription” or “Flex Pass”) would be for commuting a few days a week, accounting for people who may continue to combine telework and office work as life resumes a level of normalcy following the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Covid has accelerated the teleworking practices of companies,” said Georges Gilkinet, Minister of Mobility.
“These practices will undoubtedly remain after the pandemic and it is important that the SNCB adapts its home-work pass offer to this new reality.”
The flexible subscription is aimed at allowing people to commute by train to a fixed workplace two to three times a week.
“This flexible subscription targeted at workers will allow commuters who regularly telework to benefit from attractive fares adapted to their needs,” said Gilkinet.
“The introduction of the Flex Pass after the pilot experiment will lead to even more people discovering and using the train regularly, and I am looking forward to that.”
The pilot project will start in June and will be offered exclusively to approximately 6,000 to 7,000 employees of large companies who are participating in the project.
After the pilot project, the flexible passes would then be available to everyone else - individuals or companies and institutions from all sectors, both public and private - at the beginning of 2022.
The plan is for the Flex Subscription to offer commuters a pass that allows them to travel either 80 or 120 days over a 12-month period, or around 6 or 10 days per month.
The commuter will be able to choose the days on which they’ll travel during the entire duration of the subscription, between two specific stations.
The subscription will be available via the SNCB App: each time the passenger takes the train, they will select the day beforehand, which will then be scanned by the train attendant via a QR code.
The Flex Subscription is primarily a product for commuters who use a smartphone, as one is required for the app.
In parallel to this pilot project, existing subscriptions (via MOBIB or on paper) will remain available. The pilot project will be evaluated at the end of 2021.
Even prior to the Covid-19 crisis, SNCB points out, the number of professionals who work from home at least part of the time was increasing. The pandemic accelerated that trend and even as more and more people become vaccinated, many are expected to keep working from home at least part of the time, having seen the benefits of teleworking.