The National Railways Society of Belgium (SNCB) has announced an expected loss of € 290 million in 2020, in lieu of its previously estimated profit of € 108 million.
The SNCB also noted that in the near future they do not intend to restore performance to close to pre-coronavirus values.
The national railway operator continues to consult with the government regarding plans to provide citizens with free travel tickets (currently it is planned to issue tickets for 12 trips that would be valid for 6 months) to stimulate the growth of domestic tourism during the pandemic.
According to estimates, this step will result in losses for SNCB of 110 million euros. The fact that many Belgian citizens work remotely two days a week can have a negative impact on the financial position of the operator.
Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the SNCB operator carried an average of 900 thousand passengers daily, but at the peak of the pandemic, this figure dropped to 90 thousand. After the resumption of transportation in May 2020, passenger traffic reached a third of its usual level.
The crisis negatively affected investment. According to the original plan for 2020 – 2030. The investment portfolio of SNCB was estimated at 8.26 billion euros, which was mainly supposed to be spent on grants, and the operator’s contribution was to reach 1.19 billion euros.
The operator planned to receive 839 million euros from operating income, and then the deficit would have amounted to 351 million euros. However, the influence of coronavirus and the lack of income have led to a revision of the investment program downward.
At hearings in the Belgian parliament, SNCB representatives pointed to the leading role of the national railway operator for the entire country’s public transport network during the pandemic.
Moreover, the operator provides socially significant transportation according to the obligations taken for a 10-year period. SNCB also insists that long-term investments are required to ensure the high-quality fulfillment of these obligations, transport efficiency and further infrastructure development, supported by appropriate