NMBS spokesman Bart Crols says that there is a two-year delay in new rolling stock that has to be delivered. At the end of last year, 445 new M7 coaches from manufacturer Alstom should have been delivered, but only about half of them have been delivered.
“As a result, the NMBS currently has to run with a good 200 carriages less than planned. These are also double-decker carriages, which have more seats,” says Crols.
The older rolling stock that has to be deployed to compensate for these delayed deliveries is also more susceptible to breakdowns. “Our fleet is on average 25 years old, with peaks of more than 40 years,” said Crols. “Trains that normally should have been taken out of the fleet now have to be used further, resulting in more breakdowns, which means that there is also less reserve equipment to deal with breakdowns.”
Especially the commuters who take the train from Antwerp to Brussels complain on social media that they don’t have a seat. According to them, delays and outages are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
The NMBS cannot say how long the problems will continue. According to the spokesperson, opening up the first-class seats as a temporary solution is not a general solution. “Opening up seats in first class is always a decision made on board the train. If it turns out that there is really not enough space, the train conductor can decide to open up the first class. That is a decision that is taken train by train,” Crols told VRT NWS.
The unions have long denounced a lack of investment in the railways and have planned several strike days next week. It will be the second specific rail strike in a short time. On October 5, there was already a 24-hour strike. On November 9, there was also disruption on the track in the context of the inter-professional national strike and action day of the trade unions. The unions consider the investments that the government committed to the railway at the end of the last budget conclave to be insufficient.