NMBS to launch wi-fi pilot project on Ostend-Eupen line

Summary

The Belgian railway will soon launch a test project to provide wi-fi in trains, though the whole network isn’t expected to be covered until 2019

First class only during peak times

National rail authority NMBS has begun a test project on its Ostend-Eupen line to provide free wi-fi on trains. The project will last three months, but the provision of wi-fi on trains in general will have to wait until 2019.

Federal ministers for telecommunications (Alexander De Croo) and mobility (Jacqueline Galant) joined NMBS chief executive Jo Cornu for the inaugural run of one of the first trains equipped with wi-fi. Two trains on the route will be fitted; the wi-fi will be available in first and second class cars during off-peak hours, but only in first class during peak commuter hours.

“A data connection in the train is one way of allowing people to be more productive, or to watch a Netflix film or a YouTube video,” said NMBS commercial director Bart De Groote. “In either case, they can make good use of their time, unlike in the car.”

Depending on the results of the evaluation following the test, the system will be extended to other routes in 2017. Cornu asked De Croo to ensure that mobile operators cover the entire rail network, so that the service could finally be available on all trains by 2019.

Whether the service will remain free at that point remains to be seen. “This is a very big investment that we have to find some way of making back,” De Groote said. Some European countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy, already offer free wi-fi on all trains.

Passengers who make use of the new connection can offer their opinion and impressions via email to wifi@b-rail.be. 

NMBS

Belgium’s national railway system was established in 1926 and is the sole provider of passenger train traffic in the country.
Overhaul - Starting in 2014, the railway system will operate under a two-pronged structure with transport division NMBS and infrastructure operator Infrabel. The umbrella organisation, NMBS Holding, will disappear.
Trio - NMBS comprises three organisational units: NMBS Mobility, NMBS Europe and NMBS Technics.
Criticism - The rail authority has frequently made headlines with continuing delays. The most common causes for delays are malfunctioning trains and infrastructure glitches.
223

million travellers in 2012

87

percent of trains on time in 2012

43

percent increase in female employees since 2005