In five Flemish train stations, there will no longer be personnel of the Belgian railway company NMBS/SNCB on the platforms, to make up for the shortage of staff in larger stations. The staff on the platforms, called assistant station managers, provide information to travellers and keep an eye on things, but can also coordinate train connections.
“If a train is delayed somewhere, they can stop another train in the station so that passengers do not miss their connection,” said SNCB spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman to NewMobility. “A very useful feature in stations with many connections, which is why we have decided to temporarily move our staff to these important stations,” he added.
The stations of Lokeren, Ghent-Dampoort, Essen, Noorderkempen and Roeselare will have to function without an assistant station manager, but the SNCB is convinced that other personnel will be sufficient to counterbalance their departure. “There are always other people to give information, there is still security personnel, and there are cameras to keep an eye on everything,” Temmerman said.
TreinTramBus, a union for better public transport, nevertheless spoke of a decrease in service, even though spokesperson Stefan Stynen admitted that the function is not equally important in all stations.
“We see a similar restriction in other departments of the SNCB,” he said to NewMobility. “Ticket offices also have increasingly stricter opening hours and are less available, because travellers buy more online. However, when the ticket office is closed, and the assistant station manager disappears, the traveller no longer has a point of contact at all,” Stynen added.
There is a structural labour shortage at the SNCB. This year, there are 1,400 vacancies, mainly in the department of train attendants.