Record number of trains cancelled in 2022
A record number of trains were cancelled in Belgium over the past year, Flemish daily newspaper De Tijd reported on Wednesday after analysis of figures provided by rail network operator Infrabel. Structural infrastructure and staffing problems are behind the increased curtailment of train services.
In total, more than 38.400 scheduled train journeys were cancelled this year. Even though the year is not yet over, 2022 already broke the previous record from 2016, when just over 38.000 trains were partially or entirely cancelled. Nearly 3.500 journeys per month are now cancelled, threatening to push the final count well above 40.000.
With the exception of the pandemic year 2020, the number of cancelled trains has been rising for years. Accidents, people walking on train tracks or external factors such as bad weather are at the root of most cancellations. This year, however, the impact of staff shortages and high absenteeism at national railway company SNCB is particularly striking. Internal problems at the railway company usually account for only a third of cancellations, but this number is now up to 40 per cent or more than 15.4000 cancellations.
Punctuality continued to decrease last year. Less than 90 per cent of trains arrived within six minutes of their scheduled arrival time in 2022.
Furthermore, Belgium's ageing and often outdated infrastructure leads to more cancellations. Many obsolete train carriages remain in rotation because 200 new double-decker trains ordered by SNCB are yet to be delivered. In addition, an estimated 700 kilometres of track are in such bad shape that trains should actually not be running on them. As a result, drivers have to drive slower, resulting in more delays.
As a result of these problems, punctuality continued to decrease last year. Less than 90 per cent of trains arrived within six minutes of their scheduled arrival time in 2022. Major stations, in particular, are struggling with declining punctuality.
© BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER