The coaches are designed to offer improved accessibility for all passengers and will feature new sliding access ramps and multimodal spaces for wheelchairs, pushchairs and bicycle, disabled toilets and an improved passenger information system.

The coaches also conform with SNCB’s new accessibility policy, announced in September, which specifies that all platforms must now be 76cm high and all rolling stock must comply with this boarding height. However, not all stations on the Belgian network currently meet this standard, and the new fleet is intended to address this concern.

“The new coaches will be accessible to people with reduced mobility and passengers in wheelchairs, as well as being more easily accessible for the elderly, people with children or travellers with bicycles,” says Mr Sebastien Ridremont, head of sales for Bombardier Transportation Benelux. “SNCB wants all passengers to be able to take the train completely independently in a comfortable and safe manner, and this will be the case for these adapted M7 coaches thanks to their new sliding access ramps.”

The coaches are multi-functional and can be deployed both as trailers in M7 EMUs, or as part of a locomotive-hauled train. The coaches can operate at speeds of up to 200km/h, and will be certified for operation on the Belgian network, as well as some cross-border lines to the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The deal follows the initial order of 445 vehicles from the 2015 contract, which are currently being delivered, with 40 coaches expected to be in service by the end of the year. The framework contract is estimated to be worth around €3.3bn if all options are exercised.

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