Among the victims of the two-day rail strike which began last night: scouts and other children heading for summer camp as the school holidays get off to a start. The strike by rail union OVS was somewhat mitigated by the fact that enough notice was given, and we are now in the holiday period. Only one train in three was due to run on Wednesday, but the rail authority NMBS has now instituted a system of minimum service, which gives priority to mainline services between cities.
The authority also effectively uses social media, its own app and website to give real-time information as far as possible.
However one group of passengers who were severely let down were scouts and other youth groups lined up to attend the summer camps so popular in Belgium during holiday periods.
The association of scouts and guides in Flanders has demanded a reimbursement for the money spent on reserving places on trains carrying young people to camp, given that the reservations were made long before the strike was announced. The scouts and guides, travelling in large numbers, typically reserve spaces well in advance.
“We prefer to use public transport,” said spokesperson Jan Van Reusel. “But this strike is particularly inconvenient. Now we have to make an appeal to parents or dip into our own budget for other transport alternatives.”
And in the spirit of scouting (and guiding) he pointed out, “We have no wish to get mixed up in the debate about the relevance of this strike. It’s a big problem for us, but not a catastrophe. A real scout will get by. But a gesture from the NMBS would be welcome. Perhaps they could refund the tickets? Or could we maybe use them on another day for another trip? We like to count on public transport, but that depends a lot on our trust in the railways of course.”