Belgian Minister Gilkinet talks rail challenges, night trains and more
The Belgian federal government has “very big and positive intentions for trains and tracks”. “We want to make the train the backbone of the mobility of the future”, says Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet in an exclusive interview with RailTech.
Taking the first spot on the programme of the RailTech Belgium conference, which took place this Wednesday, minister Gilkinet could not make it in person, but instead opened his office for a video interview with RailTech.
“It’s a very positive story because one euro invested in the train brings three euros back to the economy.” However, there are many challenges to reach Belgium’s goal of an increased modal share of rail for passengers and freight. “We need to be more efficient, develop better coordination of the trains, and a a better service, with trains earlier in the morning and later in the evening. So that you can be as free when you take the train as when you have a car, which is a part of the problem: we have to solve the climate problem, and the problem of too many cars in cities such as Brussels”.
Watch the video interview here:
Brussels as the night train hub of Europe
Belgium recently announced that night train operators do not have to pay for track access charges or energy costs in the coming two years, a step Gilkinet is “very proud of”. “We want to help night trains develop again, and we want to make Brussels the hub for night trains in the future. Because there is a lot of demand, people who want to travel in another way, in a more green way. And it’s a very positive way to build Europe.”
For the future, the Minister hopes more private companies will propose night trains coming to Brussels. “There are several projects, but it is difficult to find the rolling material. I want to create a level playing field for night trains against the unfair competition of planes and other more polluting means of transport.”
Belgium is one of the 6 countries in the EU that still have VAT on international train tickets, while all international air travel is tax-free. Talking about a level playing field, does Belgium have any plans to remove taxes from international train tickets? Gilkinet: “I’m indeed asking this to my government, for months. I hope we can take this decision, we have to give the sign now that it is positive for the climate to take the train, and it’s very logical to make the train free of VAT.