Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts has made good his promise to withdraw De Lijn buses from their Brussels terminus under the Gare du Nord unless the safety situation improves. Today is the deadline set by Weyts, and no moves have been undertaken to remedy the situation. De Lijn buses which terminate in Brussels will from Monday stop on Place Rogier instead.
The De Lijn terminus is in a U-shaped tunnel under the station, where it is dark and dank even in the finest weather. The inside of the terminal, which is not manned and contains only ticket and drinks machines, has become a refuge for the homeless and, latterly, for trans-migrants taking refuge from the elements now that the nearby Maximilian Park no longer offers shelter.
Police from the Brussels-North zone regularly attend calls from users of the terminal, complaining of aggressive begging for change or cigarettes, threatening behaviour and a general feeling of danger. The presence of so many sleeping rough, together with their belongings, creates a feeling of insecurity among the travelling public, Weyts has argued.
A demand for the terminal to be cleaned up was met instead by a procession of blame-shifting, with the various authorities – the commune of Schaarbeek, the communications centre where the terminal is housed, the rail authority SNCB and the asylum and interior ministers – each denying responsibility for the location.
According to Weyts, the Brussels-Capital region has a contract with De Lijn which obliges the government to ensure the terminal is safe, clean and accessible to transport users. Speaking in the Flemish parliament on Wednesday, he described the current situation as “lamentable” and argued “the safety and hygiene of passengers and drivers is under threat”. And he promised: “We are not going to wait for a victim to be reported. We will move the stops if the deadline passes without action.”