The difference between Infrabel and SNCB
It may be complicated to understand the respective responsibilities of Infrabel and SNCB given that these companies originated from the former SNCB, which used to be one company. Moreover, their respective remits have changed since the creation of the SNCB Group in 2004.
The evolution of the SNCB Group
To better understand these changes, we need to go back about ten years. Until 2004, there was just one company, SNCB. This company was responsible for everything related to the railways: not only passenger transport, but also the management of the network and railway infrastructure.
The end of 2004 saw the split of SNCB following new European regulations, which required a separation of the national railway operator and the railway infrastructure manager in order to avoid unfair competition in the sector. SNCB was therefore divided into three entities: SNCB (railway operator), Infrabel (railway infrastructure manager) and SNCB-Holding. SNCB-Holding was created under the initiative of social partners who wanted to ensure that all employees preserved the same unique status. It was also responsible for areas such as large stations and ICT.
At the end of 2013, SNCB Holding and SNCB merged to become SNCB. Some of the responsibilities formerly held by SNCB Holding were moved to HR Rail (which was created as a subsidiary of Infrabel and SNCB), while the other responsibilities were “distributed” between Infrabel and the “newly” created SNCB. This is the structure that we see today.
Infrabel is therefore a relatively young company, but it has almost 180 years of expertise in the sector.
Infrabel is the Belgian railway infrastructure manager. Its direct clients are not passengers but the companies wishing to use the railway network to transport passengers (SNCB, Thalys, etc.) or freight (B Logistics, Euro Cargo Rail, Captrain, etc.)
Some of Infrabel's responsibilities include:
- the maintenance of the network
- the extension and modernisation of the network
- the management of rail traffic
- billing for track usage.
SNCB (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges) is the National Railway Company of Belgium. Its clients are the passengers themselves. Some of its responsibilities include:
- the organisation of passenger transport in Belgium and, in part, abroad
- the organisation of freight transport (B Logistics)
- the maintenance of rolling stock
- the sale of tickets
- passenger information (yellow posters displaying train timetables, screens in tunnels and station buildings, station announcements, etc.)
- the management of stations
HR Rail is a joint subsidiary company of Infrabel and SNCB. It is the legal employer of all employees in both companies. It ensures the unique status of the railway employee. Some of its responsibilities include:
- recruitment for Infrabel and SNCB
- social dialogue
- the social security service
- the pension service