Unions representing the drivers of Flemish public transport authority De Lijn have threatened to strike unless rapid action is taken over the conditions in the underground bus terminal at Brussels North station. The terminal is situated in a horseshoe-shaped tunnel under the station, and its covered area below the tram and metro station is used by migrants and homeless people as a shelter. According to complaints initially made months ago by drivers, members of the public have to put up with aggressive begging from the people sleeping in the terminal, as well as the nuisance of rubbish everywhere, as well as the smell of homeless people using the area as a toilet.
The problems were first signalled months ago, and De Lijn for a time moved its Brussels terminus from inside the station to the streets outside, before running into problems with Brussels police when buses were lined up in the middle lane of a busy avenue.
The main problem then was finding out who was responsible: the building is owned by the Brussels region, but operated by the rail authority SNCB. Police in the vicinity, meanwhile come from two different zones – Brussels-City and Ixelles, and Schaerbeek-Evere-St Josse. De Lijn itself, meanwhile, is only an occupier, and cannot take action to solve the problems.
“We are taking advice about a number of limited actions we could take to put pressure on the management of De Lijn,” said, ACV union representative Eddy Bronselaer. “We know that De Lijn has their back to the wall, and can’t provide immediate solutions, but they have to exercise pressure on the Brussels Region, which owns the building.”
After the unsuccessful attempt to move the terminal to the Place Rogier at the end of last year, Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts is now suggesting moving outside, this time to the Place du Nord, where the entrance to the tunnel is situated. “The difference is that the current terminus is underground, in the dark. No more of that, just out in the open, on an open square, where there is plenty of room to place temporary bus stops. We’re just going to go ahead and do it, without waiting for permission from the Brussels Region.”