Railway ticket office services cut
Changes coming into force in August will see counter opening hours at 22 Flemish stations reduced, as more and more passengers buy tickets online or from machines
The impact will be greatest at smaller stations, but there will also be changes at larger sites such as Gent-Sint-Pieters (pictured), where ticket windows will close 30 minutes earlier each day and open 15 minutes later at weekends. The NMBS is making the changes based on evolving passenger behaviour, particularly the increased use of digital sales and communication channels. Last year, automated sales, including online, via an app and from ticket machines, accounted for about two-thirds of total ticket sales.
“In smaller stations, kiosks will be closed at lunchtime during the week, or at particular times at the weekend,” an NMBS spokesperson said. The current opening hours of waiting rooms will remain unchanged. Stations will not close and there will be no changes to train services.
Railways union ACOD Spoor says the presence of staff in stations is essential to ensure a good-quality service. “This decision is a new step towards stations without staff to serve passengers,” a spokesperson said. The NMBS says, however, that more than 40 new counter clerks are due to start work across the country this month, with further recruitment after the summer.
In total, 49 stations are affected, 22 of them in Flanders, with opening hours reduced by at least 30 minutes a day. They are Herentals, Lier, Mechelen, Diest, Tienen, Aarschot, Torhout, Ypres, Lichtervelde, Tielt, De Panne, Poperinge, Ostend, Blankenberge, Deinze, Wetteren, Puurs, Geraardsbergen, Gent-Sint-Pieters, Dendermonde, Sint-Truiden and Genk. The changes comes into effect on 5 August.
Photo: Belga/Jasper Jacobs