In January, Belgium experienced the highest number of train cancellations in over four years, with more than 6,000 trains affected, according to data from rail network

operator Infrabel's opendata website. Train punctuality, including cancellations, dropped to 82.6% last month.

The number of partially or fully cancelled trains in January doubled compared to the same period in 2023, marking the highest figure since the beginning of 2020. This equated to 5.8% of all Belgian trains operating in January, or approximately one in 17 trains.

Infrabel and rail operator SNCB attribute the increase in cancellations to the adverse winter weather conditions experienced in January, including several days of snow and ice. The most disruptive days were identified as January 17th, 18th, and 19th, which collectively caused a 2.1 percentage point drop in punctuality for the month.

However, SNCB bears the majority of responsibility for delays and cancellations in January, accounting for 45% and 54% respectively. Weather-related issues fall under the 'third party' category of delays, which also encompasses incidents such as trespassing on tracks and level crossing accidents, contributing to a third of cancellations last month.

Both SNCB and Infrabel highlight the increasing congestion on the rail network, stating that incidents like snow and freezing temperatures leave little margin for error in handling disruptions. This domino effect leads to additional delays for other trains.

In 2023, punctuality on Belgian railways, including cancellations, averaged 84.6%, indicating that more than one in seven trains faced cancellation or delays of at least six minutes throughout the year. The companies emphasize the priority of restoring punctuality and meeting the targets outlined in the public service contract for the remainder of the year. Photo by Hullie, Wikimedia commons.