Thousands of commuters have been forced to find different ways of getting to and from work after a 24-hour strike by Belgian rail workers brought train services in and out of the country to a standstill.
No high speed trains are running between Belgium and neighbouring France, Germany, or the Netherlands. The Eurostar Channel Tunnel connection from Britain to Brussels is also hit, as are local routes.
One frustrated tourist said: “It’s too bad because we haved been sightseeing in the city over the last couple of days and now it feels like there’s nothing to see anymore. We want to see Bruges and it’s too bad. This is an inconvenience for us.”
Another thwarted traveller said: “It’s very sad, we are very disappointed, very, very disappointed because we had a well designed programme and the luggage we’ve brought all the way here and we’re going to have to take it all home again. It’s very sad.”
The dispute is over restructuring plans for the cargo unit of the state owned SNCB rail company.
Union organiser Luc Piens said: “We announced last Monday that we were organising a 24 hour strike. If there is no progress or results during the negotiations, then we will be forced to continue our actions until the end of the year.”
Signallers and station staff fear as many as 3,000 jobs could go and union officials are considering calling a series of weekly strikes unless they receive assurances over job security.