Jasper Jacobs

Ticket office opening hours to be cut at 49 Belgian railway stations

The Belgian rail company NMBS is to reduce the number of hours that 49 of its stations are staffed from 5 August. In the main it will be smaller stations that will see the number of hours that customers can buy tickets are obtain travel information over the counter cut. However, the ticket offices at some big stations such as Ghent Saint Peter’s will also be closing earlier in the evenings.    

NMBS says that the decision to reduce ticket office opening hours has come about due to changes in passenger behaviour. An ever-growing number of passengers are purchasing tickets or obtaining information about rail services online.  Furthermore, a growing number of us are using the ticket machines.  Two-thirds of all tickets are now sold either online or from ticket machines.

Moreover, NMBS reviews and revises the opening hours of the ticket offices at its station every year. The rail company says that in some station the number of over the counter transactions has fallen under what it describes as a “critical level”. With ticket office staff having nothing to do for between 60% and 95% of the time

"At these stations the ticket office will be closed during weekday afternoons and/or certain periods at the weekends”, NMBS said in a statement. Waiting room opening hours won’t be affected by the changes.

22 of the 49 stations where ticket offices opening hours will be reduced are in Flanders. They are Herentals, Lier, Mechelen, Diest, Tienen, Aarschot, Torhout, Ieper, Lichtervelde, Tielt, De Panne, Poperinge, Ostend, Blankenberge, Deinze, Wetteren, Puurs, Geraardsbergen, Ghent Saint Peter’s, Dendermonde, Sint-Truiden and Genk.

At Ghent Saint Peter’s the ticket office will close half an hour earlier (at 9:30pm) both on weekday’s and at the weekend. The ticket office will also  open 15 minutes later on Saturdays and Sundays.  

The socialist rail union ACOD says that the measures announced are part of “a new restructuring offensive”. The union says that rural areas that are already vulnerable are being hardest hit.

Meanwhile, NMBS says that it is recruiting 40 ticket office staff and they should be operational in the autumn.