Belgium - Article 9

Rail

National Rail Travel
Regional Rail Travel
Urban Rail Travel
Transnational Rail Travel
Visiting Belgium

National Rail Travel

In Belgium, the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge on the national rail network. Additional charges incur where a ‘reservation' fee or a ‘seated' ticket is required. Concessionary fares are often not fully endorsed by high-speed rail networks. Compulsory ‘reservation' fees can vary depending on the travelling period.
 

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Regional Rail Travel

The regional concession scheme is the same as the national scheme : the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge
 

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Urban Rail Travel

The urban concession scheme is the same as the national scheme : the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge

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Transnational Rail Travel

The Belgian Railways (SNCB-NMBS) signed the IUR Agreement on Rail Transport for Blind People and their Guide issued in 1997 and amended in 2005. Visually impaired people residing in and travelling to any of the countries who signed this Agreement are entitled to a free ticket for their guide or guide dog provided that the return ticket is purchased in the country where the disability card was issued. In practice the Agreement does not apply to additional fees such as ‘reservation' or ‘couchette' which must be paid in full for both passengers. Furthermore, a survey conducted by EBU in 2000 revealed that in many countries the Agreement was not well known or was simply ignored by transport operators and authorities.

The signatories of the agreement are companies rather than States and many of the existing transnational routes are not covered by the Agreement. There are deplorably no provisions for the blind and partially sighted on the high-speed Thalys train (Germany-Belgium-France-the Netherlands) which only runs concessions for wheel chair users. The Thalys brochure states that specific concessions are made available to the visually impaired public but repeated tests conducted by EBU in 2008 revealed that the software used by booking agents did not contain a concession category for blind or partially sighted people and their guides.

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Visiting Belgium

Belgium has signed an agreement with the other Benelux countries (Luxembourg and the Netherlands) whereby visitors these countries can benefit from Belgian concessions schemes upon presentation of their national disability or blindness card. In theory, foreign visitors from other countries are not entitled to these concessions which are locally-financed and limited to local residents. In practice, concessions are sometimes granted depending on the willingness of ticket vendors. Foreign guide dogs are likely to receive a discounted or free ticket.

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