The Belgian railway company NMBS/SNCB is developing a new fare range. Consequently, some current tickets with a fixed price – for seniors or youngsters – will no longer be available. Senior organizations fear that train travel will become too expensive for seniors in the future.
Today, people over 65 pay a fixed price: 8.30 euros for a return trip (after 9 a.m. on weekdays). But for short distances, that rate is not always the cheapest option. With the new fares NMBS/SNCB wants to launch in 2025, seniors (and young people) will receive a fixed discount of 40% on the regular ticket price, regardless of the distance. This discount will also apply during peak hours.
Social role of public transport
Such a fixed discount is advantageous for short journeys, but long journeys may be more expensive. For seniors, a trip from Antwerp to Ostend would cost 26.16 euros instead of 8.30 euros.
The new ticket prices raise questions about public transport’s social role. Young people also lose their 7.50 euro fixed rate. In addition, the NMBS has already announced that the well-known discount card for large families will be scrapped. The fare adjustments come in addition to the recently announced restriction on the opening hours of the ticket offices.
Railway company NMBS also plans to launch a ‘loyalty card,’ with which seniors and young people could receive an extra discount on top of the 40%, and there would also be a maximum fare. However, this card can only be used during off-peak hours.
According to twelve senior organizations (among them Okra, Groen Plus, and S-Plus), “the new fares will mean a price increase for most seniors”, and that is “completely unacceptable and unreasonable”. They fear that older people will more often take the car for long journeys and plead for an annual subscription for seniors, valid on all public transport in Belgium.
Also, some politicians respond critically. Joris Vandenbroucke (Vooruit): “NMBS/SNCB’s planned fare reform makes the senior ticket far too complicated and expensive on long routes. That is unacceptable. What we need is exactly the opposite: a cheap combination ticket for all travelers.”