The Belgian government has been forced to postpone a plan to hand out 12 free train tickets to locals until after the summer rush on the national network, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said Monday.
“In order to avoid rushes in busy areas of the country, the measure to grant free train journeys to citizens will be postponed until September,” Wilmès said after a meeting of the national security council on the response to the coronavirus outbreak. She also announced a series of measures to clamp down on the rise of new coronavirus cases.
The free ticket plan was expected to start on August 17 as part of efforts to revive Belgium’s tourist economy following the pandemic lockdown. A spokesperson for SNCB rail said the free tickets will be postponed to September 7 at the earliest.
SNCB said it would set up an online application process next month for travelers to snag their free tickets, under the condition that trips could only be used at a rate of two per month up to the end of February. The tickets also can’t be used before 9 a.m. on weekdays.
The rail company’s bosses have warned that the plan wouldn’t be simple to implement, and regretted the lack of consultation when the measure was announced, calling for clarity on the “logistical and financial aspects.”
“The free distribution of tourism train passes to all Belgian residents raises the question of the sanitary safety of travelers and staff,” SNCB’s CEO Sophie Dutordoir said in June.
The article has been updated with an SNCB comment.