NMBS: ‘No more extra trains to the Belgian coast’
After a weekend full of incidents at the Belgian seaside, the offer of trains to the coast will be at least limited, no more extra trains. Passengers will be counted and will not be allowed on the trains when they are 80% full.
The coastal mayors earlier had insisted on urgent measures to prevent crowding at the coast. Now, the transport company seems to have given in.
The decision of canceling seven additional trains was taken during a consultation between the Federal Ministers of Internal Affairs and Mobility, the mayors of several coastal municipalities, the provincial governor of West Flanders, and the public transport company.
It is clear that public transport company NMBS/SNCB has taken this decision reluctantly. Also, the chairman of travelers organization TreinTramBus, Stefan Stynen, is against the decision of canceling some additional trains to the coast.”This way, a problem of enforcement at the seaside is laid at the public transport company’s door.”
Assumption of Mary
The decision was taken after an overcrowded weekend – Assumption of Mary, traditionally a top weekend at the coast – with incidents in Blankenberge and Knokke. “To prevent similar situations, it is decided that NMBS/SNCB will stick to the decided maximum of passengers to the coastal municipalities: 10 000 to Ostend, 6 000 to Blankenberge, 4 000 to Zeebrugge, 2 000 to Knokke-Heist, and 2 000 to De Panne,” explains NMBS spokesman Bart Crols.
People will be informed by info boards on trains and in stations, and travelers can check the availability of the trains via the website and the app. “People are welcome, but they have to prepare their day trip,” the Ostend Mayor, Bart Tommelein (Open Vld) earlier announced.
He already asked for a registration or reservation system, which lead to a ‘voluntary’ registration system for those coming to the coast by train.
No heatwave anymore
But what happened? Did the NMBS/SNCB finally accede to the demands of the coastal mayors? “We suppose the demand will not be so high next week,” Crols says. “Because the weather will not be so fine, and also because several authorities have called on people not to go to the seaside.” So, the train company doesn’t want any problems with the measure.
If the seat occupancy rate will rise above 80%, no other passengers will be allowed on the trains in the next station. If necessary, the police will be summoned to steer the situation in the right direction. The train leaders will be responsible for the estimation of the seat occupancy.
‘Essence of public transport’
Travelers organization TreinTramBus worries about possible consequences. “Trains are not only destined for tourists,” Stynen says. “For some people, it’s a vital means of transport. Not everybody owns a car. This decision undermines the essence of public transport.”
The mayors of the coastal municipalities, however, are happy with the solution. “We hope that people realize that a day out at the seaside in corona times is not a smart idea,” says Daphné Dumery (N-VA), Mayor of Blankenberge. The NMBS/SNCB will evaluate the effect of the measure after the weekend.
Meanwhile, other measures are taken to improve safety. Four troublemakers are arrested, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Pieter De Crem (CD&V) has announced a solution to keep away hooligans.
“They will no longer be welcome at the seaside. And, if necessary, we expand the measure to all recreation areas of the country,” De Crem says. Troublemakers will have to give themselves up to the police or to the municipality where they reside on weekends and holidays. The legal frame for this measure has to be ready as soon as possible, and De Crem is frenetically working on it, but it probably won’t be legally valid for this summer.