'Unacceptable': Belgian railway criticised for late decision to scrap trains

'Unacceptable': Belgian railway criticised for late decision to scrap trains
Credit: Belga

The late decision by Belgian railway companies to suspend large parts of its train traffic due to storm Eunice on Friday afternoon is being heavily criticised, by both commuters and the Government.

On Friday morning at 11:00, railway company SNCB and network operator Infrabel announced that nearly all trains would be scrapped in West and East Flanders and Antwerp from 14:00 – just three hours later.

"We recommend returning home before noon or after 18:00 and to limit your trips as much as possible this afternoon," stated SNCB late in the morning, when many commuters had already left for work.

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The decision received a lot of criticism on social media, mainly from people who took the train to get to work and were then left wondering how and when they would be able to get home.

Via Twitter, SNCB said that it understands commuters' criticism, but underlined "yesterday, it was already clearly stated that it is not recommended to travel today," and added the info about the upcoming storm was also heard in the media for several days.

While the Dutch railway company already announced on Thursday that most trains would be scrapped on Friday, an SCNB spokesperson told VRT that the decision in Belgium was not taken earlier because "we wanted to ensure a maximum train offer for our passengers."

'Unbelievable blunder'

In the Parliament on Friday, however, a number of politicians also voiced their criticism about the late decision and lack of foresight.

"Apparently, it is difficult to anticipate things that you know are coming in this country," said Federal MP for the Flemish rightwing N-VA party Björn Anseeuw in Parliament. "This could perfectly have been prevented."

For Federal MP for the socialist Vooruit party Joris Vandenbroucke, the "late and poor communication about the worst storm in 30 years, that we already knew yesterday" was "an unbelievable blunder."

He said that "train passengers deserve better than this amateurism" and added that he would question Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet about this in parliament.

In the meantime, Gilkinet's cabinet communicated that the minister is not happy with the late decision. He called it "unacceptable" and has reportedly already spoken with Infrabel CEO Benoit Gilsen about it.

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