Cancelled flights, train delays and traffic: Snow causes major disruptions across Belgium

Cancelled flights, train delays and traffic: Snow causes major disruptions across Belgium
Credit: Belga/Eric Lalmand

Despite today's snowy weather in Belgium having been predicted well in advance, the snowfall has caused numerous disruptions across the country, from traffic jams and delayed trains to scrapped flights.

Due to the large amounts of snowfall, there is a large impact on the flights at Brussels Airport Zaventem on Wednesday evening as employees have difficulty clearing the snow on planes and on runways.

"Despite the efforts of our teams, we are unfortunately facing delays and cancellations of flights," a warning on the airport's website reads. Passengers are advised to check the status of their flights online before coming to the airport.

This morning, national railway operator SNCB announced that it expected the predicted heavy snowfall and freezing rain in the south of the country to lead to a number of trains not running in parts of Wallonia, but disruptions are also affecting the rest of the country.

Brussels’ waste collection service, Bruxelles-Propreté, halted operations on Wednesday due to heavy snowfall and challenging road conditions.

Train delays and traffic jams

Delays for many connections are running up to 30 minutes, and several trains in the Flemish Brabant (which includes the busy Leuven station) and Limburg provinces are scrapped entirely, with train slow downs also increasing in Ghent-Sint-Pieters – Flanders' busiest station.

SNCB spokesperson Bart Crols stated that the problems can be resolved relatively quickly for the time being, and that currently all connections and stations are still operational. Only in the Ardennes, Luxembourg province, train traffic was stopped entirely after a truck became stuck on a railway crossing.

In Brussels, the disruption to traffic was not too severe in the afternoon, but as the day progressed and more snow fell, the buses of Brussels public transport company STIB came across more problems, while some tunnels were also closed.

Shortly before 16:00, the Belliard tunnel (in direction of the E40 motorway) and the Meiser/Reyers tunnel were temporarily closed, as was the intersection between Botanique and Rue Royale. As these are sloping roads, cars started to slide backwards.

While it is difficult to predict how long the nuisance will last, there are no diversions provided. Drivers who have to be on site will therefore have to be patient, according to Brussels Mobility.

A TEC bus rides on a snowy road in Vezin on Wednesday 17 January 2024. 

The metro and tram network has been relatively spared from major disruptions so far, but the increasing snowfall has caused a lot of problems for the buses. "We are noticing difficulties at several locations," said STIB spokesperson An Van Hamme. "The buses have a hard time, especially in places with steep slopes or cobblestones."

For example, line 74 is being diverted between the Decroly and Uccle-Stalle stops due to the winter weather, the STIB website reads.

Meanwhile, Walloon transport company TEC has halted its bus traffic. In the afternoon, 130 bus lines in the Liège-Verviers region had already been shut. Now, the situation across the entire region is too risky to guarantee the safety of passengers and staff, TEC stated.

In the Flemish province of Limburg, bus traffic has just been completely stopped because the roads are in too poor condition, public transport company De Lijn announced, adding that all buses still on the road now are heading back to the depot.

Slippery roads

Earlier in the afternoon, the transport company had already reported that it was also becoming very difficult for buses in Flemish Brabant and the southern part of the East Flanders province, mainly in small village centres and on slopes and bridges.

For car traffic, the Roads and Traffic Agency warns of "very slippery" roads, stating that it spread 1,000 tonnes of extra salt on the roads in Flanders alone, but advising drivers to remain vigilant.

"The problem is that the salt cannot work equally well everywhere. Certainly not in places where it keeps snowing," Katrien Kiekens of the Agency explained. "We cannot completely remedy slippery roads. Be careful on slopes and bridges, as it is difficult to distribute the salt properly."

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Traffic can only move very slowly on motorways, regional roads and smaller roads, leading to delays of one to two hours in some places. "The most traffic problems are in southern East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Brussels and Limburg," said VRT traffic expert Hajo Beeckman.

In Flemish Brabant and Limburg, the left lanes on motorways are sometimes not usable at all. "It is better to postpone your trips in those places."

In the meantime, VRT weather reporter Bram Verbruggen said that several more centimetres of snow are still expected to fall in the coming hours. "It will only gradually become drier in the second part of the night."

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