'Out of control': Belgian rail urged to better manage passenger flows

'Out of control': Belgian rail urged to better manage passenger flows
Flemish MP Maurits Vande Reyde shared a photo of passengers packed inside an SCNB train on 24 October 2020. Credit: Gothier Degryse via Maurits Vande Reyde/Facebook

Belgium's national railway company is facing calls to come up with a coronavirus plan capable of preventing overcrowding on trains and platforms.

Tomas Roggeman, a lawmaker with Flemish nationalist N-VA party, said that recent incidents of overcrowding captured on photo or video and circulated on social media showed that train operator SNCB/NMBS needed to double down on enforcing social-distancing.

"Current measures are insufficient, the situation on the trains and in stations is often out of control," Roggeman said, HLN reports.

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While the company enforces a strict face mask mandate onboard trains, inside stations and on platforms and has said that it has reinforced cleaning onboard vehicles and stations, Roggeman said that incidents where social distancing is impossible have been piling up since the summer.

A photo of passengers packed inside an SNCB train posted on Facebook on 24 October caused outraged among social media users, with many calling on the train company to make a move.

"Not ok SNCB, difficult measures have been taken elsewhere, everyone is assuming their responsibility," Flemish parliamentarian Maurits Vande Reyde, who shared the photo, wrote.

The Flemish lawmaker called on the company to draw up an emergency plan which includes enables better control of passenger flows both on trains and in stations and which is capable of limiting risks even in the event of unexpected disruptions.

"Delays and technical problems will continue to emerge, the NMBS must prepare for this with the same simple measures that the rest of the economy has familiarised itself with for six months," Roggeman said, saying the plan was also crucial to counter new flare-ups of the virus.

"Organise people flows and monitor capacity also in stations. Guarantee smooth commuter flows by getting rid of obstacles. Introduce one-way traffic," he said.

"We have been asking for this for months and there are likely to be further waves of contamination. It is necessary to ensure that train passengers can get on and off the train safely."

The Brussels Times

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