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    Health fears will keep De Lijn buses away from North station

    © Belga
    © Belga

    The three unions representing drivers for the Flemish public transport authority De Lijn have agreed to tell their members to stop using the underground bus terminal at Brussels North station, pleading health dangers. De Lijn moved out of the terminal – located in a tunnel under the CCN tower which houses the station – once last November. For a week, drivers terminated on Place Rogier, and spent their break time parked in the middle of the road on the square and adjoining Rue du Progres. Police complained and the buses returned to the terminal following promises from the Brussels region, which owns the CCN building, that something would be done about the situation.

    The problem is that in and around the terminal, the space is used by trans-migrants with no accommodation, who sleep there at night and store their belonging in the daytime, when some of them also have the habit of pestering bus drivers and passengers for money. In addition, the premises, one floor down from the North station concourse and above the pre-metro station, are also used as a toilet and a rubbish dump by its occupants.

    Complaints from the public involve the smell, the mess, a feeling of insecurity and the sometimes aggressive behaviour of beggars. Adding to the list, the unions are now citing rumours of the presence among migrants of diseases such as scabies and tuberculosis. Both De Lijn management and the federal public health ministry have denied those rumours, but the suspicion is enough to move the unions to act. One union representative pointed out to the VRT that police who attend complaints at the terminal come occupied with a face mask. “And then of course everyone begins to ask questions,” he said.

    “It cannot be the intention that we are exposed for any longer to the dangers in the North station, both of safety as for health, for our drivers and our customers alike,” the unions said in a joint statement.

    From tomorrow, Monday, De Lijn buses will no longer use the North station terminal for routes beginning and ending in the capital. Only buses from Leuven and Haacht will use the nearby Rogier stop. Buses from/to Dilbeek will stop at Westland; lines from Grimbergen, Wemmel, Puurs and Meise terminate at Bockstael, while buses from Ternat, Aalst and Groot-Bijgaarden will terminate at Simonis.

    Update: On Sunday, Schaerbeek mayor Bernard Clerfayt said he would be asking for an investigation on Monday of claims that scabies is present in the terminal, which lies partly in Schaerbeek. Also on Sunday, a TV crew from RTL-TVi was attacked by a group of trans-migrants who were bing filmed. Police intervened but no-one was hurt. The crew said they would report the incident after they had completed their reportage. 

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times