Expatica news

Free commuter trains on the way

26 January 2004

BRUSSELS – Hundreds of thousands of commuters in Belgium could soon benefit from free train travel to and from work.

The Belgian government has just approved a plan that could see hoards of employees granted the interesting new travel perk.

But some critics have been quick to point out that, as so often seems to be the case in Belgium, state employees and civil servants are likely to be the biggest winners under the planned new scheme.

From March this year the government has pledged free train travel for civil servants and people working for state-owned companies like telephone operator Belgacom or the post office.

But the scheme will only come online for private sector employees in 2005 and, more importantly, it will work on a voluntary basis.

Put bluntly, employers will be given the option of paying up to 80 percent of their employees’ travel costs and the sate has promised to pick up the bill for the remaining 20 percent.

Experts predict large firms will have no qualms about offering the new perk as part of a general salary and benefits package. Several Belgian banks already pay 100 percent of their employees’ travel costs for example.

But smaller firms may be less keen to foot the bill. So some commuters look set to continue waiting in Monday morning ticket queues for some time yet.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news