Belgium, the “international center” of the future? Although the rate of use of Belgian trains has not yet reached its pre-crisis level, public authorities are betting heavily on the development of rail over the next few years. Because located at the crossroads of continental Europe, Belgium has a real asset: its geographical location, which can make it an “international centre”.
“We will benefit by shifting from plane to train”, Confirms Damien Lepage, who graduated from cole Polytechnique de l’Euclovain in 2020. As part of his final dissertation in applied mathematics, the young man asked himself the question: which train or plane connects the major European cities the fastest. Brussels? To answer this question, Damien Lepage compared the performance of air and rail transport networks on a European scale. The result is clear: the train will be more competitive than the plane for travel of less than 450 km. That doesn’t stop that every month about 4 million European travelers prefer the plane to the train on a similar route. “It’s amazing when you know the train will be faster than the plane, which requires you to get to the airport, often out of the way, showing up in advance, checking your luggage…”, the author comments. But it may well change. That’s why “We are better connected to the rail network than the air level, is Damien Lepage mentioned. On the train, we are on our way to Germany, England, the Netherlands, France … people are more or less bound to go to Brussels”,
backbone of mobility
The Belgian authorities are aware of this. and intends to invest to develop the already dense Belgian rail network (3,615 km of main lines and 214 km of high-speed lines) and make Brussels the train capital by developing international connections there. A broad outline of this strategy can also be found in Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet’s Vision Rail 2040 plan. Adopted in May 2022, the text has a clear ambition: “It is essential that Belgium, due to the position of Brussels, the European capital and seat of international institutions and organisations, and its geographical location in Europe, can have a direct rail link to other major European cities. Be it the TGV connection, the classic international trains or night trains.” to do this, especially “Reducing Airborne Chip Skip”. IsCurrently, SNCB sells tickets from various rail operators, covering 3,600 international destinations and over 1,000 direct journeys with less than 6 hours of travel time. “For the foreseeable future, SNCB intends to continue to provide cross-border traffic for public service missions” And “Notably a significant increase in the number of destinations to France, Austria, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain”.
more generally, “Train should be the backbone of mobility”, Even confirmed Mr Gilkinett, who in September 2022 had proposed reducing VAT on all transport tickets to 0%. Estimated cost of the measure: 100 million euros. An investment that according to the federal government is worth the candle. According to 2019 Eurostat data, trains represent 8% of trips in Belgium. “Our aim is to reach the general share of 15% by 2040”Can we still read in Vision Rail 2040 plan. SNCB spokeswoman Marianne Hirnox confirmed: “Our ambition is to increase passenger numbers by 30% within 10 years as compared to 2022”, With two main leverages: an increase in leisure travel, but also in commuters (work-from-home and school-to-work). Belgium is not the only European country that wants to work twice as hard on the railroad.
rationalization of prices
In France, SNCF has big ambitions and wants to double the number of passengers on trains by 2030. To achieve this, the company aims to evolve its offering with rationalization of fares, more low-cost TGVs and democratization of the “avantage”. Terms, a deduction card that limits fares by distance (€39 for travel under 1h30, €59 for travel between 1h30 and 3 hours, and €79 for travel over 3 hours).
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