Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) will put a proposal of 0% VAT on tickets of Belgium national railway company NMBS/SNCB on the table at the March governmental budget audit. He said this in the chamber’s Mobility Committee. Currently, it is 9% by default. Furthermore, the minister again disputed that he intends to implement significant rate increases.
In the chamber’s Committee on Tuesday, the debate continued on the new management contracts of NMBS/SNCB and Infrabel. Meanwhile, Green MP Kim Buyst has a bill ready to scrap VAT on all forms of public transport.
“Higher ticket prices, in these times of crisis, are unacceptable. Therefore, we are calling for VAT on all public transport to be abolished once and for all. Public transport must remain financially accessible for everyone”, says Buyst. Belgium train and bus journeys have 9% VAT added as a standard.
“New fare offer more advantageous”
The announced increase in train fares by an average of 8,73% from 1 February also caused a lot of reactions on parliamentary benches. However, the minister clarified that he does not intend to implement any significant fare increases.
On the contrary, Gilkinet also defends the future tariff structure, which should be more advantageous for young people, seniors, and commuters. This puts an end to fixed discount fares of 7,1 and 7,8 euros, respectively. The longer the route, the more significant the difference will be.
According to Gilkinet, young people and seniors will gain with the new fare offer, which becomes more advantageous. There will be a maximum price for long distances similar to the current price. For short distances, the price will be determined according to the distance, and thus a hefty discount will be applied, with an additional discount in off-peak hours.
However, the contract stipulates that this new tariff structure will come into force 26 months after the public service contract takes effect, i.e., in 2025. According to Gilkinet, work is in progress to update the software used by NMBS/SNCB. “This may seem long, but it will be a real tariff revolution. I will never allow fares to be tripled”, concluded the minister.
Less punctuality again
Meanwhile, with 89,1%, train punctuality remained below 90% in January for the fifth month. In addition, 3 026 trains were entirely or partially canceled in January, or 3,1% of all trains. Last year, train punctuality dipped below 90% (to 89,2%) for the first time since 2018.
In the new management contracts of Infrabel and NMBS/SNCB, the punctuality of domestic passenger transport is one of the criteria on which a part of their funding depends. Punctuality should reach at least 90,6% by 2027 and 91% by 2032.
Besides, train passengers who want to buy a ticket on board the train will only be able to do so electronically from May. Train attendants will no longer accept cash.
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