As with the commercial policy of other European railway companies, the SNCB's policy is evolving to better meet the expectations and demands of the growing number of citizens who use digital solutions to buy their tickets. In some stations, the number of customers using the ticket office had become very low and, as announced at the beginning of 2021, the ticket offices in several stations are being closed for good at the end of this year.
Major support measures (communication, information sessions, leaflets) have been implemented by Belgian Railways over more than six months to ease the transition. Measures have also been put in place to ensure passenger accessibility, safety and support, while also protecting the special role train stations play in the social fabric. Among other things, contacts are ongoing with the two towns.
All other sales channels offered by Belgian Railways remain available, including the app, the website at sncb.be, ticket machines (at every station, with remote assistance option) and counters at nearby stations. Belgian Railways also continues to roll out its digital services: soon new customers will be able to buy season tickets for the first time at sncb.be. Alongside all these measures, Belgian Railways and bpost are set to launch a pilot project in the towns of Saint-Ghislain and Liedekerke on 1 December to improve access for all train customers.
From that date, Belgian Railways passengers will be welcome at bpost post offices in the vicinity of the two stations. They will be able to get help filling out the application form for a new season ticket or reduction card at the post office counter. (This pilot project covers the following reduction cards: National Recognition Card, Preferential Reimbursement Card, Priority Seating Card, Free Carer Card).
bpost will forward the applications to the Belgian Railways customer service, which will contact the applicant directly.
Under the partnership, the two public companies will work together to offer services to passengers that are currently only available at station ticket counters.
This pilot project will be assessed in the course of 2022.
Georges Gilkinet, Minister of Mobility: "As Minister of Mobility, I am in favor of creative solutions and cooperation between public companies that can improve the service and accessibility for train passengers. In that sense, I welcome these two pilot projects between bpost and SNCB. I look forward to the results of this experiment. If bpost and SNCB can strengthen each other through improved service to passengers, and in particular to older people or the less fortunate, then we will have done a useful job!
Petra De Sutter, Minister of Public Enterprises : “As Minister of Public Enterprises, I fully support collaborations like this one. In light of the increasing digitalization of our society, interesting symbioses are certainly possible. Like the pilot project on "digihubs", this pilot project analyzes how the proximity of the vast network of post offices can be used, in times of declining postal mail, to create a permanent physical point of contact for the digitally weakened customer and citizen."