New rail fare system: '80 per cent of travellers will pay the same as now, or less'

In a bid to attract additional travellers, the Belgian railway company SNCB plans to implement a new fare system by 2025, ensuring that 80 per cent of passengers won't experience an increase in ticket prices. A discount card will offer reductions during off-peak hours, SNCB marketing director Marc Huybrechts said on Wednesday.

This tariff overhaul targets non-season tickets, which constitute approximately 80 million journeys a year, or one-third of the total. The company hopes to attract occasional travellers, who make up 75 per cent of the 6 million people who use trains less than once a month.

Concerns from youth and seniors

Changes include abolishing fixed amounts for people up to 26 years old and over-65s in favour of a 40 per cent discount on standard fares, applicable at all times. The move seeks to address current complexities in pricing, where youth and senior rates may not always be the most economical for shorter trips. Consumer bodies have already expressed concern about these changes.

SNCB plans to balance this with the introduction of a discount card. The card, available to all travellers, ensures a maximum price for journeys at any time of day, minimising disparities between existing and new rates. Additionally, the card promotes off-peak travel with extra discounts during weekends and non-peak hours.

"Eighty per cent of travellers will pay the same as now, or less," Huybrechts said. "Some travellers may pay a little more, especially on long distances. But the price differences are minimised with the discount card."

Other changes include a group ticket for four or more people, replacing discounts for large families. "We want to treat all young people the same, regardless of whether they come from a large family or not," Huybrechts said. Children under 12 will continue to travel for free, and new ticket machines are scheduled to be rolled out in stations between 2025 and 2026.



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