Wallonia not satisfied with NMBS/SNCB’s holiday regime

There has been outrage in Wallonia, and particularly in the Liège region, over the holiday regime of Belgian public train operator NMBS/SNCB. Due to the switch to a holiday regime across the country, because it is Easter holiday in Flanders, there are fewer trains in Wallonia, especially during rush hours and in the busy region around Liège.

NMBS/SNCB defends itself by arguing that in Wallonia, part of higher and university education is also on leave and that there is lower attendance in all regions around this time of year anyway.

“Disadvantage for French-speaking and Brussels pupils”

Since last year, French-speaking education in Belgium has had a different school calendar than that of the Flemish community – an organizational disaster for those who have children who are educated in different language communities or for those who themselves work in one and have school-age children. But the Easter holidays also fall at different times: in Flanders, they run from Monday 1 to Sunday 14 April; in Wallonia and French-speaking schools in Brussels, they run from Monday 29 April to Sunday 10 May, except for part of higher and university education.

NMBS/SNCB also switches to a holiday regime during the first two weeks of April, which means fewer trains are running, even though students in Wallonia do have to go to school. French-language media such as La Meuse and La Dernière Heure now think NMBS/SNCB is giving Flanders preferential treatment. “The French-speaking and Brussels pupils and commuters are at a disadvantage,” it sounds.

And especially in Liège, they are unhappy about it: with 100,000 students, Liège is the largest education center in Wallonia. Moreover, in Liège, the city pass, which allows fast and unlimited travel by train, tram, and metro, is most widely used in Belgium, while the Ardent City still suffers from the tram construction site, which could lead to more traffic congestion.

Lower attendance

NMBS/SNCB knows that the holiday regime can cause disruptions, but “at the same time, in our historical figures, we also see lower attendance, for all regions combined, at this time of year.” According to NMBS/SNCB, many colleges and universities in Wallonia and Brussels are also closed during this period, and therefore, there are fewer passengers.

It is not that no more trains are running, the transport company stressed in the newspaper the Gazet van Antwerpen. “In some places, there are still as many running as normal. We do take it into account.” As will be the case in the summer holidays, when the holidays for Flemish, Brussels, and French pupils will again differ. “Then, too, we will adjust our arrangement based on the number of travelers.”

However, in Wallonia, they are mainly wondering whether, in a few weeks, when most Walloon schoolchildren and students have holidays, Flanders will also suddenly have a reduced train offer, which will then be dictated by the Walloon calendar.

“The offer will indeed be adjusted during the Walloon spring holidays,” NMBS/SNCB confirms, “but we have no details on that at the moment.”


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