West Flanders governor threatens legal action against SNCB for over-filled trains
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West Flanders governor threatens legal action against SNCB for over-filled trains

Busy trains debark at Ostend in February Credit: Belga

The governor of West Flanders province, Carl De Caluwé, in considering legal action against the national rail authority SNCB over the recent scenes as over-filled trains brought crowds to the coastal resorts during the recent spell of fine weather.

Decaluwé stressed that neither he nor the province’s police services nor the coastal mayors had had any contact with the SNCB over the provision of extra trains – in contrast to a statement from a spokesperson for the SNCB on Friday.

“They are liars,” he said. “Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein was quite right when he stated that there was no discussion whatsoever about the possible crowds and the extra trains that were laid on.”

Resorts like Ostend and Blankenberge – both train termini along with Knokke and De Panne – were forced to take measures to keep the situation somewhat under control, including by deploying extra community guards at the weekend. And the crowds returned yesterday.

I am holding my breath for the Easter holidays, should there still be corona measures in force, especially with good weather like now,” he said.

The rail authority, he said, overstepped its authority by providing extra trains to the coast without prior arrangement with the local authorities.

I will be having a discussion with the federal home affairs minister. Things cannot go on like this. One possibility is to call in bailiffs to determine if the rail authority is blatantly flouting the corona measures. We can then go to court with the official report.”

UPDATE: Governor Decaluwé had a meeting today with representatives of the SNCB, together with mayors and representatives of mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) and home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V). The discussion, Decaluwé said, was “very difficult,” with the SNCB promising to take back the comments made to the ministers in charge.

“We will see what comes of that,” he said afterwards. Another meeting is due to take place tomorrow.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times