Belgian rail launches seat booking for ‘Coastal Express’
This summer, the Belgian railway company NMBS/SNCB will provide direct reservation trains to and from the Belgian coast. The additional ‘Coastal Express’ (Kust Express) trains will be available from Saturday, July 3rd, after a successful experiment during a weekend in June. The Coastal Express trains with reserved seats will ride directly to their final destination, without any stops in in-between stations.
With the additional trains, NMBS/SNCB wants to meet the demand of day-trippers and families who want to plan their trip to the coast. The railway company provides 20 direct trains a day – between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. – during the summer weekends.
In the morning, the trains start from Luik-Guillemins, Brussels South, Ghent-Sint-Pieters, and Antwerp-Central and arrive in Ostend, Blankenberge, De Panne, and Knokke.
The test during the weekend of five and six June was a success. More than 1 000 travelers booked a reservation and, according to a survey, customer satisfaction was high: 90% gave a score of at least 7/10, 87% said to be satisfied with the online reservation system, 92% was happy with the experience in the station, and 94% enjoyed the train ride.
With the Coastal Express trains, NMBS/SNCB wants to meet the passengers’ wishes. Travelers like to have a guaranteed seat. They want to travel fast and avoid crowded trains and stations.
“Almost one in three respondents said to be willing to put the car aside to take the reservation train to the seaside,” says NMBS/SNCB CEO Sophie Dutordoir in the train company’s press release. “This means that comfort and commercial speed attract possible new clients.” According to the CEO, it confirms the importance of the train as leverage for sustainable mobility.
The Coastal Express trains complete the traditional train offer, so travelers can opt for a reserved seat and a direct connection or a train that stops in several stations. However, traveling by Kust Express is faster than by a traditional inter-city (IC) train.
The Coastal Express from Antwerp to Blankenberge, for instance, arrives 33 minutes earlier than the IC train. A passenger traveling from Brussels to De Panne even gains 54 minutes.
Travelers with the Coastal Express have to reserve via the NMBS/SNCB website, and reservations are possible until fifteen minutes before departure. A reservation guarantees a seat, but people are free to choose where they want to sit.
The Coastal Express pilot will be evaluated at the end of the summer to see whether it will be repeated or not. Apart from the new train offer, NMBS/SNCB maintains the sanitary rules for trains to tourist destinations. Wearing a mouth mask remains mandatory in trains, stations, and at the gates.