Federal mobility minister François Bellot has spoken out against a proposal by the chief executive of the Brussels public transport authority STIB/MIVB to have Brussels trams operate on the rail network within the region. CEO Brieuc de Meeûs floated the idea last week in De Tijd newspaper while responding to an idea from the Green coalition in Brussels for the STIB to provide free public transport in the evening and at weekends. “When the European rail market is opened up in 2023, there will be routes on offer in the Brussels region,” he said. “Why should the STIB not offer services on the railways. Our goal is to transport people, in whatever manner is appropriate.”
But the rail authority SNCB/NMBS, Bellot pointed out, already offers rail transport within Brussels, with around 30 stations on the S network, which covers stations from Berchem-Ste-Agathe to Boitsfort, and from St-Job in Uccle to Haren on the border of the region. Meanwhile on social media, many public transport users pointed out that the STIB has trouble maintaining its services by tram, bus and metro, without venturing onto the railways.
Bellot likened the Brussels network to a roundabout on a busy road. Not only do trains carry passengers from the provinces to the capital and back again, Brussels also serves as a link between cities as far apart as Ostend and Eupen or Ghent and Liege.
“Sending out trams over the Brussels railways would be like cars that drive eternally round a roundabout without ever coming off,” Bellot said. “It would amount effectively to splitting the network into three parts: one for Brussels, one Flemish and one Walloon. Is that really what people want, when you consider the loss of operational efficiency that would follow from splitting the SNCB into three branches?”
The rail authority itself declined to comment. “It is up to the four mobility minister to come to a common standpoint,” a spokesperson for the SNCB said.