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Mobility minister pledges more train-bike initiatives after successful trial

A lady walks through a Belgian trains station with her bicycle (BELGA PHOTO THIERRY ROGE)
09:31 21/01/2021

The government’s initiative of offering free transit for bicycles on Belgian trains has been a huge success, according to mobility minister Georges Gilkinet.

Gilkinet told parliament on Wednesday that the temporary measure, introduced after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in July 2020, resulted in 335,000 bicycle tickets being issued in the six months that it was in operation. In 2018, there were 184,000 tickets issued and in 2019, 211,000 tickets.

Building on this success, Gilkinet wants to develop a specific bike-train strategy for this summer in cooperation with the SNCB, the Belgian national railways operator. "Combining trains and bikes is the perfect example of sustainable travel; it’s good for your health and for your wallet,” the mobility minister said. “We need to encourage that. Not only with temporary and exceptional actions like the one that ended on 31 December, but with real structural solutions. This is how we will allow everyone to freely choose their mobility."

“But it's not the only way to take your own bike on the train, free of charge or by buying a ticket at a token price,” he added. “It is not the only solution.”

Gilkinet wants to make the bike-train combination even more attractive by speeding up the installation of additional bike parking, and by providing more bike rental and sharing opportunities at stations. Other initiatives are already being rolled out, such as the deployment of new, roomier train carriages. The new M7 carriages ordered by the SNCB will have more space for bicycles.

"If we really want to make train travel the backbone of mobility, we need to make sure that the train and the bike can be combined even more easily in the future so that everyone can reach their destination quickly when the train arrives at their destination,” Gilkinet continued. “That is why I want to boost these opportunities, based on the lessons learned from the success of the free bike operation on trains."

Written by Nick Amies