‘Barely half of Belgian trains run on time’
In 2019, more than nine out of ten trains (90,4%) were on time, according to the official punctuality figures of the Belgian railway, NMBS/SNCB, and railway infrastructure manager, Infrabel. However, these official punctuality figures do not show the full picture. Despite improved punctuality, last year only 53% of the trains were delayed by less than a minute.
After the punctuality of rail traffic in Belgium had reached rock-bottom in 2018, the railways, therefore, managed to climb out of the valley again last year. But the discussion about embellishing the punctuality figures seems to continue.
According to the official standard of the NMBS/SNCB and Infrabel, a train runs on time if it has no more than 5 minutes and 59 seconds of delay. If you only take into account trains that are less than one minute late, and therefore really run ‘on time’, you get a different picture because only just over half of the trains (53,7%) arrive at their final station without delay.
This is shown by unpublished figures from Infrabel, which will be presented to the board of directors at the end of January and which the newspaper The Standard could view. During the morning and evening rush hours, this is even less than half.
Nevertheless, there is also a clear improvement in these ‘real’ punctuality figures – the so-called zero measurement – which are for internal use only. In 2018, less than half of the trains were still running without delay. The proportion of trains that were ‘really’ on time last year even increased slightly more than the official punctuality figures. The trend is evident in both rush and off-rush hours and at weekends.
The most striking improvements are on the Brussels-Ostend and Brussels-Courtrai lines, where punctuality increased by more than 5%. As a result, trains in Ghent-Sint-Pieters, Flanders’ busiest station, also arrive more often on time (in 91% of cases). In the large stations, passengers were only more likely to get their connection in Bruges than is Ghent-Sint-Pieters.
Fewer delays by third parties
According to Thomas Baeken, spokesperson for NMBS/SNCB, the fact that last year there were slightly fewer trains without delay is no reason for euphoria. The fact that the trains run more punctually on the network is mainly because third parties cause fewer delays. These are factors that neither Infrabel nor NMBS/SNCB have any impact on.
Infrabel’s internal analysis shows that Belgium benefits from the significantly declining number of minutes of delays on foreign rail networks connected to Belgium. Last year, there were also fewer delays due to cable robberies and personal accidents.