The Belgian train arrives too late or does not arrive at all

The Belgian railway company SNCB is struggling with structural staff shortages. Between the beginning of January and the end of June, 21,856 trains were cancelled on the Belgian railway network, the highest figure in five years. Over 8,200 of them were cancelled completely, 13,600 others for part of the planned train journey. The trains that are running are also less punctual than in previous years. 90.5 percent of the domestic trains arrived at their destinations with a delay of less than 6 minutes.

According to De Tijd, the cancellation is mainly due to a structural lack of personnel. The railway company is struggling with a huge mountain of accumulated free days, the absenteeism rate is high, and finding replacements for those who suddenly drop out is becoming more difficult by the day. This year, SNCB will be looking for 1,300 new employees, 140 of whom are already newly trained train supervisors.

The SNCB recognises that the number of cancelled trains in the first six months has effectively increased in comparison with the same period last year, but points out that an analysis shows that almost half of these are caused by "third parties". This includes an increasing number of track run-offs and collisions, but also, for example, the effects of storm Eunice in February.

According to the transport company, the absence of SNCB personnel accounted for 14.7 percent of the number of cancelled trains in the past six months. That has everything to do with COVID, quarantine but also cases of aggression, it sounds. In terms of punctuality, too, personal accidents and track walkers are often the cause. The 'third party' category thus accounted for 42.3 percent of the causes of delays, according to the transport company.

Already, more trains have been wrecked than in the whole of 2017 and the annual total of 2020 will also be reached this summer. If there is no improvement in the second half of this year, the record set in 2016, which was marked by a major industrial action in May and June, is in danger of being smashed.


© BELGA PHOTO VIRGINIE LEFOUR - NMBS-SNCB CEO Sophie Dutordoir waiting on a train. Pictured during the inauguration of the new railway station in Nivelles, Wednesday 27 April 2022.



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