Welcome to the guide to travelling by IC (InterCity) express trains in Belgium
Accessing the train
Attributes of the train
Which country these trains operate in.
Belgian national rail operator NMBS/SNCB, uses a generic ‘Intercity’ branding for all of its express train services that skip stations.
However, on the sections of routes taken by IC trains that are furthest from Bruxelles, the trains can call at every station between some towns.
Some of these 'Intercity' services also cross the border into France on routes to and from Lille.
Until recently each separate InterCity route was given its own letter, but NMBS/SNCB seems to have have dropped this.
A wide variety of trains are used for Belgian Intercity services, the IC branding is applied to the service/routes and NOT the train.
This has led to 'train-speak' being used to describe the different trains used on these Belgian IC services.
However, aside from the Ostende - Eupen service, the types of IC trains used on each service/route are fairly interchangeable.
Though the E.M.U trains are always used on the routes to/from Lille and the double deck trains aren't usually used on the routes which don't serve Bruxelles/Brussels.
The trains that NMBS/SNCB uses for its Intercity services fall into three broad categories:
Loco hauled trains with M6 DOUBLE-DECK coaches.
These trains are used between Bruxelles and:
As can be seen on the images the difference between the 1st and 2nd class seating on these trains isn't particularly stark.
These are single deck trains with I11 coaches
They are the top flight NMBS/SNCB trains and are exclusively used on the Ostende - Brugge - Gent - Bruxelles - Liege - Eupen route.
(Although other types of IC trains also operate between these cities).
These are single deck trains with driving cabins at each end of the train - these trains don’t need locomotives so the technical name for them is E.M.U.s.
Some of the trains in this category have more in common with commuter trains and feel more cramped and crowded – and they have limited luggage space.
The difference between the ambience in 1st and 2nd class is also comparatively marginal - the core advantage of booking 1st class tickets to travel by these trains is the increased opportunity to find available seats.
The internal images above are of 2nd class seats.
The routes that that these type of trains usually operate on INCLUDE:
(1) Lille - Tourcoing - Mouscron - Kortrijk - Gent - Antwerpen
(2) Lille - Tournai - Mons - Charleroi - Namur
(3) Poperinge - Ieper - Kortrijk - Gent - Antwerpen
(4) Oostende - Brugge - Kortrijk - Gent - Antwerpen
(5) Poperinge - Ieper - Kortrijk - Bruixelles
NMBS/SNCB takes a no-frills, functional approach to its IC trains, but as very few journeys take more than a couple of hours, the lack of a wow factor doesn’t matter at all.
Food/drink cannot be purchased on these trains and they don’t have Wi-fi
Seats cannot be reserved on Belgian InterCity trains.
People tend to congregate by the electronic departure indicators on the voie/platform/track, so once you have confirmed that your train is next to arrive, move away from the crowds to increase your chances of finding a spare seat.
But don’t stray too far -the platforms/voie at Belgian stations are not zoned and the Intercity trains can be between 3 and 11 coaches long.
Whether a coach is 1st or 2nd class is indicated by numbers ‘1’ or ‘2’ on the side of the coaches - the use of a yellow band above the windows also indicates 1st class.
If you have a 1st class ticket and the 1st class coaches are not near to where you are waiting on the platform, board by any door and then walk through the train if need be.
Some coaches contain both 1st and 2nd class seats - on coaches that have both classes, glass doors usually separate 1st from 2nd.
All trains within Belgium are operated by SNCB and it charges a flat fee of €4 per journey per bike, you can buy these tickets at the station from ticket counters or machines.
Your passenger and bike tickets won’t be specific to a particular departure, because SNCB doesn’t offer reservations on its trains.
What is vague is that the conductor on the train will apparently show you where to place your bike on the train – not all of SNCB's trains have designated bike spaces.
The travelling with bikes page on the SNCB website has limited info, but the suggestion that you should travel outside peak times, implies that there is a possibility that the conductor will prevent bikes from being allowed on to exceptionally busy trains.
Also some trains will be lengthy with more than six coaches/carriages/cars, so the conductor may be hard to find.
So check with the booking clerk, or at the information desk, what you’ll need to do and where to wait, before making your way to the platform/track that your train will be leaving fr
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