Belgian train tickets almost 15% more expensive in one year

From 1 February, Belgian public railway company NMBS/SNCB is raising most fares by 5,9%. These include the prices of standard tickets, season tickets, and multi-journey tickets. Last year, fares had also risen sharply, then by some 9% on average.

According to NMBS/SNCB, in line with the public service contract with the government, the higher prices reflect high inflation, which has also increased the costs of the rail company.

Employers and employees united in the National Labour Council and the Central Business Council, called the indentation not conducive to getting more people on trains. “Higher train fares without better services push people back to the car.”

Bicycle supplement remains unchanged

The price increase relates to the regulated fares such as home-school and home-work season tickets, the Standard Ticket or regular train ticket, Senior and Youth Tickets 2nd class, and the discounted Increased Allowance ticket.

Non-regulated fares like Youth Multi, Standard Multi, and Local Multi multi-journey tickets will also be 5,9% more expensive. Only the prices of the City Pass in Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, and Liège and the bicycle supplement remain unchanged.

Negative consequences

The social partners and the Rail Passenger Advisory Committee regret that better services do not accompany the price increase. For instance, trains in 2023 ran less punctually than in 2022, more trains had been canceled, and the opening hours of station ticket offices were also curtailed.

They point out, for example, that the combination of fare indexation with deteriorating service quality and the fact that compensation is no longer granted for train delays of 15 to 30 minutes is not conducive to increasing the number of train passengers. “Consequently, this combination could have negative consequences for mobility and NMBS/SNCB’s financial revenues.”

The fact that car parking passes are also becoming more expensive may also encourage people to travel their route by car alone instead of car and train.

While the councils are satisfied that the bicycle supplement remains unchanged, they ask that that rate be varied depending on the distance of the journey. On shorter trips, the bicycle supplement is now sometimes more expensive than the train ticket.

The public service contract also paves the way for two fare adjustments a year, something the social partners want to avoid.

Rail is expensive in Belgium compared to other EU countries

According to Het Nieuwsblad, NMBS/SNCB relativizes the price increase by referring to foreign countries where train tickets are even more expensive. The newspaper compared Belgian prices for a standard ticket for a specific distance with those of 22 European countries.

According to them, the Belgian train ticket is the sixth most expensive, after that of Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, and Austria. This result corresponds with a recent study by Euronews-travel in which Belgium was ranked 5th in the list of the most expensive rail fares per kilometer in the EU.

The newspaper also quotes transport economist Jochen Maes (UGent). According to him, you should not only look at the price of a standard ticket but also at the various subscriptions. Then, the price of a train ticket in Belgium is relatively cheap, although he advocates cheaper standard and more expensive season tickets.

Eurostar to Paris is also more expensive

However, a recent analysis by Greenpeace revealed that not only are tickets for trains twice as expensive as for flights but also that Belgium was the third most expensive country for traveling to and from another EU country by train.

For example, Brussels is serviced by high-speed trains operated by Eurostar. However, this was one of the most expensive trains found in the analysis, meaning travel by airplane to London, for example, is often cheaper.

And speaking of Eurostar, those who want to go to Paris to attend the Olympics and Paralympic Games in July and August will have to pay 20 euros more for their ticket than usual. Eurostar tickets are available from 49 euros for a standard one-way ticket from Brussels and 50 euros for a standard one-way ticket from Liège and Antwerp.

But be careful; the “first come, first served” rule applies. Eurostar practices yield management: prices vary greatly depending on demand. It is expected that they risk quickly exploding this summer, given that according to François Le Doze, the company’s commercial director, up to 2 million visitors who will travel to Paris by Eurostar are expected in the Olympic city.

Another less fun detail for the wallet: hotel prices in Paris are soaring, with increases of almost 600% announced for this summer.

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