Improved legibility and more information in the event of train disruptions

Passengers taking the train in the next few days will immediately notice that the digital information screens in stations have a different look. The design has been modified to provide more information - for example, when train traffic is disrupted - and screen legibility has been improved. The new design has undergone extensive testing over the past few months and has been repeatedly evaluated in terms of accessibility and legibility with organisations of interest to people with a visual impairment. It can be seen in Brussels stations from this morning and will be in stations throughout the rest of the country by the end of the week.


Why this new layout? What new information will you be able to read?... Find out all the answers to your questions in the FAQs below:


Additional information for our passengers

  • Additional information in the event of disruption: intermediate stop(s) cancelled, journey limited or extended, replacement bus. Surveys of you, our passengers, have revealed that this information is missing from the current version of the screens in stations. Our passengers need their journey to go ahead as planned, and they need to be given accurate information in the event of disruption. One of the aims of the new version of the screens is to include these elements.
  • The next train, arriving just after on the same track, will now be displayed on the same platform screen (in the bottom bar). This means you can tell at a glance whether you're on the right platform.
  • Intermediate stations are displayed on the departure screens:
    • In less busy stations (with a maximum of 6 trains/hour), the departure screens now show 'all' the stops of the first 4 trains. This represents great added value.
    • At the busiest stations, up to 3 intermediate stations are displayed, always the most important ones.
    • This allows the vast majority of you to see your final destination displayed on the departure screens, which serves as confirmation.It also makes it possible to differentiate between trains that will arrive quickly or slowly at the same final destination.What's more, if you want to take a train other than the one you had planned, you are more likely to find an alternative train on the departure screen.

A more intuitive design

The new design of our screens includes the following elements:

  • A clear structure: 1 train = 1 row, 1 column = 1 type of information
  • A clear hierarchy of information:
    • Colours used: red-yellow-white, according to priority
    • Eye-catching bars (disruption information)
  • This design has been tested with the visually impaired to ensure optimum legibility (colour contrast, layout, font size, etc.).
  • It is visually similar to the design of screens in neighbouring countries, making it more recognisable to tourists.

In the next phase (in 2024), a track change will remain visible for longer than today, as it will appear in the bottom bar of the platform screen. Displaying a track change for longer reduces the risk of missing this information and ensures that you get to the right platform in good time.

SNCB has invested heavily in technological development in recent years, and more and more data is becoming available. The new layout will make it possible to display even more relevant information in the future.

It was developed in four stages.

  1. Identification of passenger needs
    • SNCB surveyed a panel of our passengers. A comparative study was also carried out to find examples of best practice in screen displays in stations in several other countries.
    • Focus groups made up of passengers with different profiles were then invited to give their opinions.
    • In a survey of passengers (5,000 participants), aimed at assessing their information needs throughout their journey (from door to door), specific questions were included to determine what types of screens were needed in which areas of the station.

  2. The new design project was carried out by a specialist designer, taking into account the reading distance, contrast, legibility and comprehensibility of the elements displayed. This was followed by a technical readability test: reading distance and colour contrast.

  3. Tests with passengers: individual interviews, including with visually impaired people
    Tests were carried out on the legibility and comprehension of information, including for visually impaired passengers. These tests always took place in a real station environment. During the development of a future type of screen, comments on previous types of screen were always taken into account (iterative process), which made it possible to systematically improve quality.

  4. Test phase in 3 stations in the summer of 2023, with optimisations based on passenger feedback
    The screens have already been tested at Dendermonde, Nivelles and Brussels-Luxembourg stations. At Dendermonde and Nivelles, passengers were able to give their impressions on the platform screens. As a result, the font size was increased by 10%. An online survey was conducted among 200 passengers boarding at Dendermonde to find out what they thought of the departure screens. Based on the results, it was decided to include up to three intermediate stations on the departure screens.
Each design was tested by a group of passengers, some of whom were visually impaired (with different types of impairment).

The SNCB appreciates that its passengers come up with new ideas. In many cases, the proposed options had already been studied when the project was being developed. Test users were also asked to identify the best options. It turned out that the proposed options were not an improvement in reality. They were either less legible or not technically feasible.

Design is a subject that generates as many opinions as there are people. To get a more objective view, we carry out tests with users, including the visually impaired. A comparative study was also carried out with 11 other countries to find the best options. Many factors were taken into account during development: programming possibilities, the type of screen, legibility for the visually impaired, maximum text length, and above all the information to be displayed, which must be functional and informative. Following a survey of passengers after the pilot project at Dendermonde and Nivelles, further improvements were made.

Studies have shown that our passengers prefer to see more details about their train. The new design makes it possible to offer more information per train, which means, however, that the number of trains displayed for a particular type of screen is more limited. For stations where this could pose a problem, the situation has been examined on a case-by-case basis to find a solution (e.g. adding an extra screen, reducing the font size).

On average, passengers arrive at the station 11 to 16 minutes before their train is due to depart. On the large announcement board at Bruxelles-Nord, for example, trains are always indicated 45 minutes in advance. That's more than enough time for the average passenger.

When traffic is severely disrupted (e.g. during the storm of 02 November 2023), you will more quickly find yourself in a situation where the screen shows few trains actually running, or none at all if traffic has had to be stopped by the infrastructure manager for safety reasons. On the other hand, you are informed of what is going wrong: passengers generally prefer to know, for example, that 3 stops have been cancelled (and which ones), rather than seeing many trains displayed in advance.

We are looking for the optimum balance between additional information, sufficient legibility and technical feasibility (both for the screen and the software). The passenger survey showed that passengers want more information, especially in the event of disruption. The minimum standard for a good reading distance is always respected.

The reading distance has been reduced in some cases, and the number of trains displayed in advance has also been reduced, but not systematically. Needs have been assessed station by station. Where there are (at most) 6 trains per hour pass through, a completely new design has been introduced. All intermediate stations are displayed, as this is relevant information. In this context, it makes less sense to display more trains in advance.

The more intermediate stations displayed, the more text per line and the easier it is to follow the line. During the test phase, only one intermediate station could be displayed. In future, up to 3 stations can be displayed, which means more text.

Why 'maximum' 3 intermediate stations and not 'always'?

It is not possible to indicate the names of additional intermediate stations in this type of case:

  • If there is only one intermediate station left on the route, only this will be entered.
  • If there is not enough space because the name of an intermediate station is long (e.g. Antwerp-Noorderdokken).
  • in the event of disruption, disruption information is displayed at this point (e.g.: does not run beyond ...)
30% of stations are equipped with at least one digital passenger information screen. This corresponds to the stations where 90% of our passengers board. The new screen design will therefore be visible to the vast majority of passengers.
No, the new design will only be displayed on those screens that allow it. This is not yet the case for 6 of the 7 black announcement boards in the departure hall of the busiest stations and for most of the platform screens. The infrastructure manager, Infrabel, which owns the screens, will gradually replace them with a digital model at the end of their service life.
The information screens in stations are installed and managed by Infrabel. The number and type of screens are determined by the number of tracks and the frequency of train movements. New screens are installed where there is the greatest risk of getting on the wrong train. Priorities are deliberately set with passengers in mind.

The new design has been put in place to suit as many of our passengers as possible. The alternating colours make the contrast less visible, especially for people with visual impairments.

Several tests have also shown that the alternating colours become less visible in the light outside.

We therefore felt it was justified to opt for a uniform colour that would be accessible to all our travellers.