'Unimaginable': coastal mayors denounce overcrowded trains

'Unimaginable': coastal mayors denounce overcrowded trains
Credit: Belga

The local authorities at the Belgian coast are calling on Belgian rail company SNCB to better regulate passengers as people are flocking to the sea in overcrowded trains on Wednesday.

The sunny weather has seen many people head to the Belgian coast for the day, resulting in busy stations and the SNCB's crowding plan being activated.

"We were suddenly informed that there are problems with overcrowded trains heading for the coast. Their capacity is far exceeded," tweeted Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein. "Unacceptable and unimaginable."

"We have noticed that it is busier than a normal Wednesday and that is due to the beautiful weather," SNCB spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman told Het Nieuwsblad. "Security personnel have been deployed in the large stations to disperse the crowds and admit them in moderation."

The coastal city of Blankenberge also saw several full trains arriving over the course of the day, according to the city's mayor Daphné Dumery.

"Just before the first crowded train arrived, we received a message from the SNCB that the occupancy was close to 100%," she told De Standaard. "Later, a train arrived with 130% occupancy. In a hurry, I had to pull officers from a traffic operation to deploy them at the station."

Additionally, community guards were also deployed again in the main street to disperse the flow of visitors from the train, as well as keep an eye on things on the seafront.

"Currently, there is no face mask obligation there, but people know that when it is busy, they have to wear a mask," Dumery said.

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According to Tommelein, SNCB should start working on a registration system for the trains, which is "an absolute necessity, in corona-times" for the safety of the train passengers, as well as for the local authorities who organise themselves.

A structural solution for the congestion on trains heading for the coast is needed, according to the governor of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé.

"Since last summer, there have been problems and, despite various consultations, SNCB has not succeeded in taking its responsibility," he told the Belga news agency.

"SNCB must also comply with the corona rules. They must ensure that the occupancy of the trains remains within limits," Decaluwé said. "If this does not change, I will have bailiffs take stock of the situation and go to court. If necessary, we will even close stations."

On Thursday morning, a meeting with the crisis cell and Interior Affairs has been scheduled.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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