Night trains to make comeback in Belgium?
Last Thursday, federal MPs have approved a new parliament resolution for the development of overnight train services. Gone since 2003 and replaced by low-cost air transport, nigh trains could make a comeback with a new connection with Sweden. Mobility Minister, François Bellot (MR), reminds that authorities can’t subsidize rail initiatives in a liberalized market, but they can create favorable conditions.
“Belgium is happy just waiting for proposals from abroad. We lack proactivity,” berates Federal Ecolo MP, Sarah Schiltz, adding that Belgium missed the boat for the ÖBB night train.
Dead since 2003
Due to economic reasons, night train services left Belgium in 2003 only to be replaced by low-cost flights. Brussels and Liege are part of the ÖBB Nightjet network, which serves Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy with two daily trips. To this day, this is the only night train service available in Belgium. But this line has been created for workers and doesn’t operate during the two months of summer holidays.
On Thursday, federal MPs have approved a new parliament resolution. “It’s a strong signal for the youth who protested for the climate and want greener means of transport,” notes Mélissa Hanus (PS). The resolution calls for the development of night train services, and it suggests the establishment of European-wide support for international rail transport.
Push in the back
On the other hand, the resolution suggests a European tax on kerosene, which is why the MR decided to abstain. The liberals don’t want to weaken an already struggling sector to support another.
“It is impossible for public authorities to subsidize rail initiatives in a liberalized market. We can create favorable framework conditions, such as the subsidization of efficient infrastructure. The government has decided to substantially reduce the infrastructure fee for passenger trains, including conventional international trains. A specific incentive rate will be applied at night,” explains the federal Mobility Minister, François Bellot (MR).
Belgium-Sweden in 2023
The Swedish government has announced its wish to develop its rail offer, including a Malmö to Brussels connection. Minister Bellot has confirmed that contacts were made on that matter, and he announced that it would be a good opportunity for Belgium. The country’s second overnight train line won’t see the light of day before 2023.