The new timetable also sees an increase in the number of suburban rail service and also strives to provide passengers with better connections both with other trains and with the bus, tram and metro services provided by Belgium three regional transport companies, De Lijn, TEC and MIVB.
However, the new timetable also sees journey times increase as the rail company strives to meet punctuality targets.
The new timetable will remain in force for the next three years. During this period (from the end of next year), the Belgian rail company NMBS will start increasing the number of seats available on its services thanks to the introduction of the new M7 carriages.
By 2020 more than 10,000 extra seats will be available on rail services across Belgium. Visit the NMBS website to see how the new timetable affects you.
The number of service will increase by 5.1%. The NMBS Spokesman Dimitri Temmerman told VRT News that 70% of the new services will be on suburban routes around the big cities such as Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.
More services at weekends
The number of services operating on Saturday and Sunday is also being increased.
On Saturdays this is to cater for the needs of shoppers, while on Sunday extra services are being laid on in the late afternoon and evenings for students returning to their digs after the weekend.
For example an extra student train will be provided from De Panne and Lichtevelde in West Flanders to Ghent, Brussels and Leuven.
Some arrival and departure times have been altered in order to make it easier for passengers to change trains to connecting services. In around 20% of the country’s 550 stations and stops passengers will have new and improved connections both during the week and at weekends.
Furthermore, the connections between rail services and the services offered by the regional transport companies have also been improved.
Although average journey times are set to fall by 3% this doesn’t mean that commuters between for example Ghent and Brussels will reach their destination more quickly. Most of the shortened journey times are on a few lines in Wallonia.
Here in Flanders the greatest reduction in journey time is on the line between the coast and Genk. Previously this train spilt into two services, one to Knokke and the other to Blankenberge, from Bruges. However, from now on the train will go in its entirety to Blankenberge, saving 12 minutes. Knokke will get at new services connecting it with Bruges, Ghent, Brussels and the airport at Zaventem.
This is the first big change to the rail time table since 2014.
Over the past few years the Belgian rail company NMBS has worked more closely than before with the regional transport companies in an effort to improve compatibility between services.