Belgian Rail starts experiment with reservation system for coast-bound trains

The Belgian rail company NMBS will start a pioneering project in the first weekend of June to oblige day-trippers to the coast make a reservation (and pay extra for this). 

The initiative was set up in the aftermath of crowded trains to the coast earlier this spring. A couple of months ago, many people seized the opportunity to take the train to the coast when we had a spell of excellent weather, but the big influx of day-trippers caused chaos in the trains and in cities like Ostend or Blankenberge in times of corona. 

There were calls for a reservation system and the NMBS will conduct an experiment. It will apply to 20 extra trains (10 to the coast in the morning and 10 back in the evening) in the weekend of 5 and 6 June. The trains will start in the stations of Antwerpen-Centraal, Brussels South, Gent Sint-Pieters and Liège-Guillemins and will have no other stop than the coast. 

1 euro extra per person per ride

Passengers willing to take one of these extra trains will have to make a reservation and pay 1 euro per person per ride extra (on top of their normal ticket). "Travellers will be guaranteed a seat and we will get a good view on how many people are expected to travel to the coast", explains NMBS spokesman Bart Krols.   

The start of more reservation systems?

The West-Flemish governor Carl Decaluwé is giving the initiative thumbs up and hopes for more if it proves to be working. However, the NMBS says it has no intentions to extend the system to normal trains. If the experiment works, it could be extended to extra trains to hotspots in the weekend, but not more. 

"This can be interesting"

Stefan Stynen of the passengers' organisation TreinTramBus says the experiment can be interesting in different ways: will passengers be prepared to pay extra for some more comfort? And will this attract less or more people? "In times of corona, it is a good thing that they know the train will not be too crowded, but on the other hand they have to pay extra." 

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