Railway works to disrupt Brussels traffic this autumn

Summary

Up to 100 trains to the capital are likely to be scrapped during peak travel times this autumn

1 in 4 Brussels commuters affected

Rail infrastructure company Infrabel has asked railway authority NMBS to scrap 100 peak hour trains per day so it can carry out major signalling works on the Brussels-Midi station between mid-October and mid-November.

Such a move would have a major impact on commuter traffic to the capital and affect one in four travellers who ride a train to Brussels in the morning. De Tijd puts the number of affected travellers at 68,000.

Infrabel spokesperson Frédéric Petit told VRT that the renovation works are indispensable to ensuring timely and safe train travel. “We are after all talking about the busiest junction in our railway network. Approximately one-third of all passenger trains use the North-South connection,” he said. Petit also emphasised that not all peak hour trains will be scrapped.

A NMBS working group is already examining how to lessen the impact of the planned works on commuters. One of the scenarios under consideration is to reroute trains via the Schuman, Schaarbeek or Brussels-West stations – this would allow 20,000 of the 60,000 affected travellers to get to Brussels in spite of the works. Another option being considered is to encourage travellers to take an earlier or later train than their usual one. The working group is expected to deliver its recommendations mid-August.

But public transport users’ organisation TreinTramBus told VRT it can already see the writing on the wall. “We fear that travellers won’t receive proper information that explains how they can get to their destination via another route.”

Photo: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

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