Belgian rail CEO threatens to suspend all train travel to coastal destinations

Belgian rail CEO threatens to suspend all train travel to coastal destinations
Credit: Belga

The CEO of Belgian rail company SNCB, Sophie Dutordoir, is threatening the government with the suspension of train traffic to coastal stations if it does not review measures affecting train travel.

During the last Consultative Committee, the government imposed a measure on train travel stating that only window seats can be used on trains to tourist destinations (such as the coast) to limit the number of seats during weekends and holidays.

"As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, the implementation of the latest decisions of the Consultative Committee will place the SNCB in a situation where risks will become unmanageable if other urgent and binding measures are not taken by the public authorities,” Dutordoir told Le Soir.

On Wednesday, she sent a letter to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, and Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet in which she questioned the decision.

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The SNCB has given the government an ultimatum to lift the limitation measures that prevail for tourist destinations, if necessary and after consultation with the Crisis Centre, or to introduce an urgent public order measure to strictly limit train travel to the coast, and is threatening to stop traffic to the targeted destinations if the government does not act.

The letter came in the wake of reports of train stations facing a large influx of people looking to travel to the coast during this week’s warm days, resulting in the train company advising people not to go to the coast on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the high number of commuters.

"The situation observed on the ground shows that the agreements made under the coordination of the National Crisis Centre and the combined efforts made so far by all parties (mainly the police, local authorities, and the SNCB) are not enough to stem the flow of passengers,” she said.

She warned that such incidents can directly jeopardise the maintenance of public order and the safety of passengers, staff, and the police, despite the efforts made by all parties involved.

The rail company published its ‘Easter plan’, at the request of the government, which will reduce the number of passengers on trains to the coast to 50%, will include crowd management at stations and permanent consultation with federal and local authorities and police, and also emphasised the window seat rule.

The window seat rule would go into effect from Saturday 3 to Sunday 18 April, as well as on the weekend of 24 and 25 April, and would apply for people aged over 12 years old on outward journeys to these destinations.

Lauren Walker

The Brussels Times

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