Mapping railway stations accessibility - part 1

Posted by champs-libres on 27 May 2023 in English (English). Last updated on 7 June 2023.

For some months now, Champs-Libres is working for NMBS/SNCB, the national railway company of Belgium, for reusing OSM data from Belgian stations. NMBS/SNCB has an interest in OSM data for improving some services to travellers, especially regarding accessibility data, and especially for bicycles. Have a look at the wiki page for more insights!

A railway platform in Marbehan station

This first diary entry is about the basic data about the Belgian stations, the “stations” themselves and the railway platforms. For reusing OSM data, we need to have a complete and right information about these objects! Next posts will be on mapping the accessibility (steps, footways, elevators, …).

How a railway station is represented in OSM?

There is a long page on the OSM wiki describing how a railway station should be mapped. The French version of the page is even more complete, partly thanks to a long collaboration between OSM and the SNCF.

To summarize, we can say:

If we want a list of the stations, we can just consider the simplest way of representing stations that is the first one: the node tagged with railway=station.

Are all the stations in Belgium (well) mapped?

Considering the nodes railway=station, the answer is “yes”! All Belgian station are in OSM. You can have a look by running this overpass query: (open this link and click on “Run” - the first top left button, and you’ll see the stations on a map)

There are 580 nodes (and 6 ways) tagged with railway=station in Belgium. But we know from NMBS that there are actually 554 railway station in Belgium, so its seems there are even more stations in OSM! How is it possible?

Actually, there are “real” railway stations in Belgium not operated by NMBS: these are mainly old stations still operated for tourism, as the Chemin de fer du Bocq and the Chemin de fer des 3 vallées.

To really identify the NMBS stations, we should add the “operator=NBMS/SNCB” tag where it is missing.

How about mapping the platforms?

The railway platforms are the places where you actually take the train or step down from it. They are mapped with a way and tagged simply with railway=platform. A very important tag to add is the ref=*, which is the numbers of the platforms. The ref is always one or two numbers, that need to be separated by a semicolon “;”, e.g., ref=2;3.

A platform gives access to one or two tracks, typically the platform for the first track (ref=1) only gives access to this first track, while the others platforms (2;3, 4;5, …) give access to 2 tracks.

And how are mapped the train platforms in Belgium?

Mhm not so bad, but some railway platforms are missing, including for big stations! Here’s an overpass query for identifying the existing platforms:

We managed to identify the missing platforms or where the ref is missing. Here’s a list of stations where there is at least one missing platforms and/or ref compared to NMBS data:

Alken, Antwerpen-Centraal, Archennes, Beauraing, Bellem, Bierges-Walibi, Bierset-Awans, Boitsfort, Leopoldsburg, Bruxelles-Chapelle, Bruxelles-Luxembourg, Bruxelles-Schuman, Callenelle, Carlsbourg, Ciney, Courriere, Couvin, Dolhain-Gileppe, Eupen, Flawinne, Florival, Gastuche, Genval, Glons, Gouvy, Halanzy, Hansbeke, Haren-Sud, Hergenrath, Herstal, Houyet, Jambes, Jette, La Louviere-Sud, Lobbes, Lodelinsart, Londerzeel, Louvain, Maria-Aalter, Merelbeke, Namur, Nivelles, Oostkamp, Ottignies, Philippeville, Pieton, Pont-A-Celles, Poperinge, Profondsart, Quevy, Rhisnes, Rivage, Rixensart, Rochefort-Jemelle, Ronet, Roeselare, Sclessin, Sint-Joris-Weert, Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Tilly, Verviers-Central, Watermael, Yvoir.

This list is quite long, but note that in many cases, only one platform is missing and is not used at the moment.

How can you help?

From this first post, we can see there are some corrections and improvements you can do on the stations and platforms.

  • add the “operator=NBMS/SNCB” tag on NMBS stations where this tag is missing. See, but of course make sure the stations is a real NMBS stations still in use!
  • map the platforms where it is missing. You can also check if the platforms of your favourites stations are well-mapped!

And please add the hashtags #nmbs or #sncb to your changeset comments ;-)

Location: Brussels-Capital, 1060, Belgium

Comment from FennecusZerda on 4 June 2023 at 13:46

Great post! Thanks for sharing, and good luck with updates. Could not see how the mapping and data for stations are used? Does NMBS/SNCB use OSM data in their travel information appes and web pages?

For reference, the whole of Norway is both mapped (partly) by and used millions of times per month in Entur’s travel information systems (OSM + OpenTripPlanner), that includes mapping of platforms for all public stations and how to get to and from them by (mostly) walking. See here:

Comment from stevea on 4 June 2023 at 19:05

Yes, having a more complete set of platforms is key to OSM’s completion of route=train relations. Often, “basic infrastructure” of rail is complete (or mostly complete) in OSM with railway=rail ways, often/usually collected into route=railway relations. These are fine to describe the “rough outlines” of a freight and/or passenger rail network, but without stations, and ESPECIALLY platforms, a passenger rail network is stunted by only being able to be fully expressed in OSM as a public_transport:version=1 route=train (or =tram, =subway, =light_rail…) relations.

After giving a talk in 2016 at SOTM-US (Seattle), I created a MapRoulette task ( to add over 5000 platforms to the USA (Earth’s largest rail network). I sort of forgot about this, but when I came back years later to visit the task, I was amazed at how well it was completed by intrepid OSM volunteers! And while passenger rail in the USA has its “20th century” aspects to it, OSM’s reflection of it continues to get better and better, thanks to the many platforms that have been added and additional station data info (and amenities, and connections, etc.).

Europe, North America, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia…rail (especially passenger rail, routing and amenities) continues to get better and better in OSM. We have a ways to go, it will take years yet into the future to really “complete” this, but OSM has been getting much better in entering, completing and refining such data. Serious thanks to all who map (rail, especially!) in OSM!

Comment from champs-libres on 4 June 2023 at 19:15

@FennecusZerda. Thanks! I didn’t know about Entur and the use of train data in OSM in Norway. We’re interested in gathering info about where and how OSM data is used by train companies. So far, we know the uses in France (SNCF), and some use cases in Germany.

The plan is that NMBS/SNCB uses that data in a specific route planner for travellers with bikes: This is an experimental route planner, and at this time of writing OSM data is not included, but it ‘ll be soon!

Login to leave a comment