In the first three quarters of 2021, the number of reports of aggression against national railway company SNCB’s staff has more than doubled compared to figures reported last year.
On Friday evening, an SNCB train attendant was beaten up near the station of Ottignies, on a train from Dinant to Bruxelles-Midi, and had to be hospitalised. As a result of this aggression, spontaneous actions arose and several trains were cancelled.
“Train and station staff work every day in the function of the customer. They ensure their safety and are there to help, guide and inform. Any form of aggression towards SNCB personnel is unacceptable and will be prosecuted,” Sophie Dutordoir, CEO of SNCB, stated in a press release.
During the first three quarters of 2021, SNCB received more than 1,300 reports of aggression towards its personnel, an increase of 56% compared to the same period last year. The number of incidents also increased by 53% compared to the same period in 2019.
Almost 40% of all incidents involve discussions with passengers who do not have a valid ticket, however, since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the second most important cause (23%) is passengers violating measures imposed to prevent infections.
“This year, almost four out of ten cases of aggression affected the physical integrity of our employees, leading to an incapacity to work and also having a great psychological impact, which is very understandable.”
Punishment and prevention
An investigation is underway to find the perpetrators of the incident that occurred on Friday evening, mainly using available surveillance cameras.
The company said that it will lodge a complaint and take civil action against every case of aggression through the College of Prosecutors General, adding that it “explicitly requested the judiciary to prosecute any act of aggression and to apply zero tolerance.”
Meanwhile, SNCB continues to increase the presence of Securail security officers on the trains and in the stations, while increased camera surveillance is being created. SNCB now manages some 10,000 surveillance cameras in the stations and trains.
Finally, it is working with the federal police, to organise targeted and large-scale control actions.