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Rail strike begins amid safety concerns


The planned 48-hour rail strike has begun, at 2200 hours last night, with varying effect across the country thanks to the introduction of a minimum service by the rail authority SNCB. Meanwhile, rail unions have announced the intention to go to four days of strikes in July.

At 1047 this morning, once the usual rush hour had passed, the SNCB said service had worked well, spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman said. Trains which had been announced as working on the SNCB app had indeed been in operation, accounting for one of three trains from the normal schedule.

The minimum service forces train staff to inform the SNCB in advance whether they intend to be on strike or in service. Based on that, the authority draws up a schedule. “We place an emphasis on morning and evening peak hours,” Temmerman said. The app shows which trains will be operating, and in the first case ever of the minimum service, it worked for the morning rush hour.

Given that the system is in a teething phase, most rail commuters are likely to have made alternative arrangements for today. This evening will present another challenge, but the strike tomorrow – which ends at 2200 on Saturday – will not have as much impact.

However regular commuters will have another chance to test the system in July, as two smaller unions have issued an intention to strike for two consecutive periods from 10 to 13 July.

Meanwhile the socialist union ACOD Spoor raised safety concerns regarding the SNCB’s minimum service system, which is itself at the basis of the strike. Personnel are being forced to take over functions, the union said, for which they are not properly qualified, bringing passenger security into danger.

A spokesperson for rail infrastructure company Infrabel said the accusations were “tittle-tattle” and pointed out that failing to meet safety standards would be illegal.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times