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Jette station ticket counter one of 44 to close across Belgium

13:31 02/02/2021

SNCB is closing manned ticket counters in 44 of its stations, including Jette. In another 37 stations, counters will remain open but hours will become more limited.

Fewer and fewer people are using the ticket counters, and SNCB says it makes no sense to pay staff to help so few customers. In Brussels, the only counter that will close is in the Jette station. Other stations to close ticket counters are Liedekerke, Sint-Genesius Rode, Waterloo, Zaventem and Ternat.

In 2015, more than half of all tickets were sold via the counters. By 2019, that had dropped to 27% and last year to 20%. Passengers are now much more likely to buy their tickets online and via the machines located in every station. While Covid-19 could have convinced more people to make the switch to online ticket sales, they are unlikely to switch back to ticket counters when the pandemic is over.

“The closure of counters is never good news,” federal mobility minister Georges Gilkinet told Bruzz. “SNCB took the decision in accordance with the demands of passengers so they can concentrate their resources on a better rail service. We want more trains, comfortable trains, and we want them to be on time. That is my goal for rail passengers.”

SNCB ticket machines

Still, he wants stations to remain “lively spaces” and not feel deserted and dangerous to passengers. He has sent a letter to SNCB asking them to examine its list of closures and apply guidelines to them.

Gilkinet’s letter suggests that counters only close if there is another train station in a neighbouring municipality with counter service and if there are other services inside or directly outside the station such as coffee houses or newspaper shops. He also wants SNCB to ensure that every station has a heated waiting area, even if there are no staff present.

SNCB has emphasised that there will still be help available for people with limited mobility to board the trains, which must be arranged in advance at most stations. It also reported that 16% of stations in Belgium will still offer counter service, while in France that figure is 13%, in Germany 6% and in the Netherlands only 4%.

According to the current plan, counters will cut down on opening hours before closing completely, with all of them shutting for good by the end of the year. In the interim, staff will assist people who usually buy tickets at the counter in learning how to use the ticket machines.

Photos courtesy SNCB

Written by Lisa Bradshaw