Belgian rail: nearly 300 million in outstanding fines

It has emerged that Belgian rail has failed to collect nearly 300 million euros in fines. The state-owned rail company insists that if it wishes to collect them now it will have to follow an expensive and slow legal route.

In 2016 the rail company issued fines to fare-dodgers worth over 43 million euros. So far only 9% of this amount has been collected. The total amount of uncollected fines issued to fare-dodgers since 2012 topped 296 million euros.

A Belgian rail spokesman blamed the time-consuming and complicated procedure required to get the fines paid. The rail company is obliged to dispatch a bailiff if it wishes the fines to be paid by tardy payers. Dimitri Temmerman: "We really do undertake action to get the fines paid. We send several reminders. If people ignore these or contest the fines we have to initiate a legal procedure to recuperate the money."

Belgium's federal government is currently working on a system that should allow Belgian rail staff to issue administrative fines of its own. This will go faster and it will be harder for fare-dodgers to avoid, but they still will be able to contest the fines. Administrative fines do away with the need to undertake legal action if fare-dodgers fail to cough up. The government's legislation still needs to be approved by parliament.