Brussels minister calls out NV-A's 'legacy' in North Station situation

Brussels minister calls out NV-A's 'legacy' in North Station situation

Brussels Transport and Mobility Minister Pascal Smet on Monday said he is ready to help the federal government with the situation in Gare du Nord railway station, but that doing so would mean "cleaning up the legacy" of Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (NV-A) members Jam Jambon and Theo Francken.

"I am pleased that Maggie De Block wants to assume her responsibility," he told Radio 1, referring to Belgium's Health and Migration minister. "But she will have to clean up the legacy of Theo Francken and Jan Jambon."

Bus drivers from transport company De Lijn since Monday have stopped serving the stop at North Station, citing concerns over "unsafe and unhygienic" conditions, the company confirmed in a press release.

Homeless people and migrants have used the city's northern rail station as a camping site and transit stop for over a year, prompting complaints and reports from both travellers and transport personnel about possible scabies and tuberculosis transmission.

Pierre Verbeeren of Doctors of the World's Belgian division on Monday said that while transmission risks for passengers and drivers were "infinitesimal," conditions in the station were "abominable."

"The living conditions for people there are a problem for everybody, we have been saying this for two years," he continued, calling out De Block for lack of action.

On Monday, the aide organisation Deux Euros Cinquante, who had been active in the station since 2017, announced on Facebook it was ceasing activities due to a lack of volunteers and funding.

The situation in the railway station has been the source of disagreements between NGOs, transport companies and authorities at both the local and federal levels, with De Lijn drivers first threatening to stop serving the station in November of 2018.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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