Belgian rail abolishes cash payments onboard trains

Train passengers wishing to buy a ticket on board a train operated by Belgian rail operator NMBS/SNCB will only be able to do so electronically from May. Railroad employees will no longer accept cash, but only carry a mobile payment terminal.

According to NMBS/SNCB, the measure fits into “a broad social trend toward digitalization and electronic payment”. Other public transport companies, such as the Flemish De Lijn and the Brussels MIVB/STIB, have already abolished cash on board for some time, NMBS/SNCB also points out. The measure should also improve the safety of the railroad employees, as they will no longer have to carry cash.

Two percent on-board ticket sales

From May onward, travelers will thus have to buy a train ticket before boarding the train, at the ticket office, at a vending machine, or via the website or app. If they do so on board the train, they will pay an extra surcharge of 9 euros on top of the regular ticket price.

According to NMBS/SNCB, less than 2% of tickets are bought on the train. Cash payments will remain possible at ticket offices and vending machines, however.

Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) said it was an autonomous decision of the NMBS/SNCB executive committee. On Tuesday, in the Mobility Parliamentary Committee, he also pointed out that “most other railway companies in Europe have abolished on-board ticket sales completely”.

E-payment success in the Netherlands

Dutch railways NS is also increasingly relying on electronic payments but offers an even more convenient solution. Since 31 January, it has been possible to use a debit or credit card to go through NS’s gates to check in and out. Public company QBuzz also turned on bank cards for its trains in the Dordrecht region this day, as did the private transport company Arriva for its Limburg trains.

In the first week that train travelers in the Netherlands could check in and out using this option, called OVpay, some 70 000 travelers did so. Furthermore, more travelers use the service during the weekend than during the week because there are more occasional travelers on Saturdays and Sundays.

Checking in and out with a debit card is mainly meant to make traveling by train easier for people who do not do this very often. Around 1 million passengers take NS trains every day. As a result, the use of the check-in method with a physical or digital debit card is expected to increase, says NS.


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