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SNCB introduces new accessible coach allowing wheelchair users to travel independently in Belgium

A man in a wheelchair entering accessible coach

Belgium’s national railway operator, SNCB, has introduced the inaugural unit of its forthcoming fleet comprising 130 double-deck coaches, specifically designed for wheelchair users to travel independently.

The coaches have received orders to integrate an accessible vehicle into every rake of M7 stock. SNCB CEO Sophie Dutordoir emphasized the importance of accessibility alongside safe and comfortable transport during the unveiling of the coach at Alstom’s Brugge plant on February 15. “Our policy extends beyond assistance; we strive for all travelers, including those with mobility disabilities, to travel independently by train, from purchasing tickets to reaching their final destination.”

The initiative addresses past challenges, as previous multifunctional cars included in the 2015 M7 order still required assistance due to height differences between doors and platforms. Recognizing this as a “missed opportunity,” SNCB ensured that subsequent orders placed in 2020 prioritized independent access. Deliveries of the new coaches are slated to occur from the second half of this year through 2026.

Collaborating closely with disability groups, SNCB developed a design that meets the diverse needs of passengers with mobility disabilities. The coaches feature an entry height of 760 mm, aligned with new platform standards, and are equipped with a sliding step to bridge any gaps. Internal doors are wider, with additional handles and lower push buttons for ease of use. Furthermore, there are accessible toilets and an intercom system for wheelchair users to request assistance.

Under SNCB’s public service obligation contract, there is a mandated expansion of accessible stations from 103 to 176 by 2032, encompassing nearly 70% of travelers. Accessibility features will be standard on all future train orders.

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