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Spring Sunday: Avoid centre of Ostend, mayor begs visitors

Another train brings the interior to Ostend yesterday. © Belga

Spring sunshine and the temperature set to climb to 17 degrees: today looks like being as good a day as yesterday to head off to the coast – were it not for Covid-19 concerns.

Yesterday the national rail authority SNCB had to trigger its own pressure plan in stations from Leuven to the coast – Brussels, Ghent and Bruges – because too many people were showing up to take the train at one time.

However although it seemed inevitable that the midday crush would be mirrored by huge numbers trying to get home in the evening, the SNCB reported that everything later in the day went off smoothly.

The weather forecast for today is at least as promising, and the weekly shopping is done, so the numbers heading for the beach could be even greater. Something which apparently tears the heart of one coastal mayor in two.

Mayor of Ostend Bart Tommelein (Open VLD) posted on Twitter to express his dilemma:

As a mayor, it breaks my heart to ask people not to come. But unfortunately there is no choice. Ostend is big enough so I want to ask people to visit the quieter places.”

Ostend is the largest railway terminal on the coast, served by a line that comes from Eupen in the Eastern Cantons all the way through Limburg and Wallonia before reaching Leuven and points west.

It is also the halfway point along the coastline, from where the coast tram runs to Blankenberge and Knokke in the north – two other train termini – and De Panne in the south – also a train destination, though much less often served.

The SNCB issued its standard advice: “We have taken security measures,” said spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman on VRT Radio.

Security personnel are deployed in the stations to spread travellers as much as possible. Our advice is mainly: check our app. It shows you how busy it is on your train and if it is busy, you may decide to take a train later.”

Meanwhile for those arriving by car, extra stewards have been deployed in Ostend to divert arriving parties from the centre to car parks on the outskirts.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times