Every day, about 800,000 passengers rely on the railways to reach their destination on time. Over the last decade, the number of commuters has risen very sharply, which means that the Belgian railways are gradually hitting the limits of their capacity, with all the consequences that entails. In addition, mobility requirements have changed fundamentally compared to 10 years ago.
At the end of 2014, SNCB and Infrabel jointly launched a new national transportation plan in order to take up all these new challenges. Infrabel also works closely with SNCB on various measures to further improve punctuality levels.
Trains on time or with a delay of less than 6 minutes
Rate of ensured connections in 10 of the country’s main stations
The punctuality of train traffic is calculated using fixed measuring points along the tracks. Punctuality is measured on arrival of each train at its terminal station and - if the train runs through the Brussels North-South junction - in the Brussels Midi and Brussels North stations. The punctuality rate is the percentage of trains that is delayed by 6 or less minutes upon arrival at these measuring points.
In 2014 the punctuality rate rose compared with the previous years: 88.2% of all trains reached its destination on time or with a delay of less than 6 minutes. This percentage also included delays caused by major infrastructure works. Infrabel and SNCB are responsible for respectively 25.8% and 36.4% of the delays.
Trespassers are people who walk onto or alongside the tracks, without having any authorisation to do so. Not only do they put their own lives at risk, due to their behaviour, they also cause major delays to rail traffic. Infrabel organises awareness actions among the public and also takes infrastructure-related measures to put an end to these infringements.
There was an explosion in the number of cable theft incidents on the Belgian railway network between 2009 and 2012. Infrabel and SNCB therefore launched a national anti-cable theft plan to minimise the impact of this type of criminal behaviour on rail traffic. Clearly, the various measures have been extremely successful. The number of cases of cable theft fell in 2014 by an amazing 73%! This is the lowest figure recorded in the last 6 years.
Damage to the railway infrastructure can have a major impact on the punctuality of train traffic. For example, trucks with excessively high loads regularly cause delays due to damage to the overhead lines at level crossings. There is one incident every month on average. A small mistake can very quickly affect thousands of passengers.
In 2014, we installed the first concrete railway ties. A first for Belgium, weighing 32 tonnes a piece! Points supported by concrete ties are noticeably heavier than conventional ones, which makes their installation a bit more complicated. But concrete sleepers have several advantages: not only are they more durable and easier to maintain, they are also more environmentally friendly than wooden ones. These new points on concrete ties are produced in the workshops at Schaerbeek.
A well-maintained and operationally safe rail network is essential for safe and punctual rail traffic. The maintenance and renewal of the rail infrastructure is one of the most important tasks in our role as infrastructure manager. As our railway network is one of the densest in Europe, we face a major challenge.
At the end of 2006, Infrabel opened its national Traffic Control dispatching centre. This brand new traffic coordination centre brought together the previous local and regional traffic controllers. The new centre was equipped with high-tech installations in order to allow even better coordination of rail traffic in real time, and to make sure that the customers had the correct and latest information at all times.
In 2014, Traffic Control merged with SNCB's Passenger Dispatching to form a single large traffic control centre: the ‘Railway Operations Center’. The aim: faster cooperation and efficient communication, in order to benefit incident handling... and improve punctuality!
The ‘Railway Operations Center’ is an ultra-modern control centre. With an area of 540 m² and no less than 55 employees, the ROC is on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The construction of the control room took 8 months to complete, and came in at a cost of EUR 1.5 million.
SNCB and Infrabel have been working together on a brand new transport plan for domestic passenger traffic. This plan defines the timetables, the connections and the length of the trains for each time period and line. Thanks to improved matching of demand and supply, we have been successful in exploiting the existing capacity as efficiently as possible. Good news for punctuality and the regularity of rail traffic.