The announcement comes after the original plans, which were made without consultation with the company, were criticised by SNCB officials including CEO Ms Sophie Dutordoir. Dutordoir said that increased traffic would undermine health precautions set up to combat coronavirus.
The scheme was originally announced by a ‘Superkern’ of government ministers and party representatives on June 6, with the intention of stimulating growth in domestic tourism in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A new proposal by SNCB for the implementation of the scheme was submitted via the Ministry of Mobility and Transport to the Superkern last week, who have accepted the revised scheme. The proposal has now been returned to the SNCB board of directors.
New proposed plans for the rail pass will allow for a maximum of twelve free rail journeys, rather than the originally proposed ten. However, travellers will be restricted to two trips per month after 9.00 on weekdays, and not on August weekends. It is hoped that this limitation will reduce overcrowding caused by the original scheme.
The pass will be available upon request to any Belgian citizen aged 12 or over (under-12s already have free travel). It is expected that around 9.66 million people are expected to be eligible.
Applications are expected to open on August 2, with the passes being useable from August 17. They will be exclusively available online, with no plans to make the pass available at stations due to Covid-19 restrictions.
According to the Brussels Times, SNCB is no longer expected to suffer a financial loss because of the scheme, with the government agreeing to compensate for loss of income during the coronavirus crisis.