A train may be late for a number of reasons:

  • Infrastructure works, planned by Infrabel, that impose speed restrictions on trains around worksites (worker safety, vibrations, etc.).
  • Technical breakdowns of trains, damage to overhead lines, signalling faults, etc.
  • Weather conditions: in summer, the equipment and materials are subject to very high temperatures and in winter, frost may settle on the copper components, which may disrupt the power supply, or a large amount of leaves or ice on the tracks, or flooding or fire risks may force train drivers to moderate their speed for safety reasons
  • The growing number of passengers leads to more people getting on and off at stops, which may lengthen the amount of time a train is stopped at a station. An increasing number of passengers also means the use of longer and therefore heavier trains. More time is needed to leave or stop at a station, even for powerful modern locomotives.
  • Personal accidents: collisions between a pedestrian (or vehicle), out of the SNCB’s control, cause the flow of train traffic to come to a halt on major lines. The consequences extend beyond the intervention of emergency services and the police due to delays accumulated across the whole region.
  • Decisions made by the emergency services for everyone’s safety.

The time required to make up a delay:
When a train is late or cancelled, the shock wave ripples out across the whole network. All trains travelling along these lines must adapt their speed or come to a complete stop, and so must the trains behind them. If the delay occurs on one of the lines converging on the Brussels Nord-Midi junction, the whole network may be affected.

The aim of the transport plan is to improve service reliability. In order to make the schedule more reliable, we have to consider the reality of the situation (engineering works, number of passengers, equipment, etc.). Every day, we transport a growing number of passengers and, as a result, some trains have to stop at stations for longer.
There are other factors in addition to scheduling that also influence the length of a journey (various engineering works incidents, equipment problems, etc.). In any case, we are constantly working to improve punctuality.
When engineering works are planned, the journey planner (on this page) or the SNCB app already take these works into account and provide a detailed timetable. These timetables are updated daily, and these tools will suggest an alternative route, if required. For more information, visit the Travel Information page.
In case of engineering works or disruption to the rail network, it may be that SNCB organises a replacement bus service. To travel on board these buses, just show your official, valid travel ticket (ticket or season ticket).
In case of engineering works or disruption to the rail network, always make sure that you follow the route suggested by the journey planner (on this page) or by the SNCB app. If you decide to travel using an alternative route, you will have to buy another travel ticket.
Wherever possible, we try to maintain connecting services in case of train delays. However, there is a possibility that the connecting service is not able to wait. Consult the journey planner (on this page) or the SNCB app for more information.
Engineering works on infrastructure may be planned for a number of reasons:
  1. Innovation
    To guarantee maximum safety on the rail network, new technologies need to be regularly implemented. These new technologies make it possible to increase the reliability of rolling stock, the safety of your journeys and improve our timetabling services.

  2. Maintenance
    Rails and points are subject to intense demands, which cause wear and tear and damage. To optimise the infrastructure and monitor rail and electrical installations, a maintenance service works daily to guarantee the best possible travel conditions.

  3. Repair work
    In the event of an incident, repairs to the electrical system or the railway are sometimes necessary. These may take place at any time of the day or night, 7 days a week, to restore rail traffic as quickly as possible.
For more information, visit the Infrabel site.
Throughout Europe, there are few rail services that cross capital cities. In most of these cities the line terminates at their main train stations. For example, in Paris, London, Madrid, Frankfurt or Milan, to cross the city, you have to use the tram, bus or underground.

In Belgium, the rail network crosses Brussels via the North-Midi junction. Every hour, there are more than 90 trains and 50,000 passengers who pass through it… and all on only 6 tracks. This line is one of the densest rail junctions in the world.

But this strength in our transport system is also a weakness. In case of delays, suspended train services or engineering works, all the trains travelling on the lines, which cross this junction, have to vary their speed or be re-routed, as well as the trains travelling behind them. In case of traffic interruption (even if it is short-lived), the problem mushrooms on all of the lines converging through the Brussels North-Midi junction and the whole of the rail network may be impacted.
Some works can only be performed when there are no trains operating. That’s why most of the works are undertaken when traffic is low (for example, at weekends or at night). Other reasons affect the scheduling of works, such as the weather forecast, the allocation of the workforce or the availability of cranes and plant.

However, during large-scale works, closing certain sections of the line is a requirement for reasons of safety. Where this is the case, re-routed services are set up ensuring that every possible precaution is taken to limit the impact on your travel.

Did you have a delay when travelling on the national train network? We’re very sorry about that. You can apply for compensation for any inconvenience suffered, subject to certain conditions.

For details and the compensation application forms, please visit the Compensation page.