Public transport has been thoroughly disrupted by the national strike. Train service between the major Flemish cities seems guaranteed, although only half of all Lijn buses run. Meanwhile, activists block the access tunnel to Ghent’s port area and Volvo Car Gent had to shut down production.
The alternative timetable for NMBS appears to be running as planned. A minimum service is in force on the major train axes in Flanders and Brussels. The main lines between Ostend and Liège are operating. Sometimes travelers have to change trains.
Most connections between Flanders and Brussels Airport-Zaventem also run. In total, one third of the IC trains are operating. There are no trains on the route between Antwerp Central and Leuven.
The NMBS route planner only indicates the trains that are actually running.
According to NMBS, the international connections for Thalys, Eurostar and TGV INOUI and Amsterdammer will also continue to operate normally. A quarter of the suburban S-trains and the local L-trains are running. Most P-trains that run during the morning and evening rush hours will be cancelled.
NMBS advises train passengers to consult the route planner before traveling to the station. It will only list the trains that are actually running.
In Brussels, only one metro line, metro line 1, ran at 6.30am. However, the line has been extended to the Erasmus stop. The trams only use lines 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 51 and 92, the buses run on lines 2, 36, 46, 50, 53, 56, 59, 71, 87 (extended to Zwarte Vijvers), 95 and t- bus 92. De Lijn expects that on average 55 percent of the buses and trams will run on Wednesday.
Big nuisance for air traffic
Air traffic in our country is experiencing major disruptions. Charleroi airport is closed. All 120 flights to and from Charleroi have been cancelled. Around 20,000 passengers are affected.
The strike is also felt at Zaventem airport. About 200 flights, 55 percent of air traffic, have been canceled as a safety precaution. The airport previously encouraged travelers to only travel with hand luggage and now also asks not to arrive at the airport earlier than planned. Travelers whose flights are arriving or departing will not experience any inconvenience. It was very quiet in the departure hall and at security on Wednesday morning.
The tour operator TUI is not canceling any of its 18 flights on Wednesday, but diverting them to the airports of Cologne and Maastricht.
Activists have completely blocked access to Liège airport, which mainly handles cargo flights. Officially, the airport is not closed, so it is operational if a plane needs to land. Access is completely closed. As a precautionary measure, carriers such as Qatar Airways, Saudi Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, ASL and FedEX had decided to base their flights at other airports.
Harbors stand still
Workers in the three ports are following the strike en masse, and no containers are being loaded or unloaded, report the secretaries of the Socialist and Christian unions. Only people with a critical safety function would be at work. “Everyone followed our call to stay at home,” says Kurt Callaerts from ACV.
Around 50 activists blocked the access tunnel to Ghent’s harbor area on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. An attacker’s post was erected at the important access tunnel to the port area of Ghent, Tower Bridge.
The activists are said to be allowing traffic to pass slowly, but police are asking to avoid the neighborhood. The blockade was said to have been put up by non-union dock workers, but federal police found some union flags at the site. In pictures, sympathizers of the ABVV appear to support the unannounced action.
Picket posts at company gates
Union militants also erected picket lines on Wednesday morning at the company’s gates to the Coca-Cola factory in Ghent and at the Albert Heijn branch in the Ghelamco Arena. Unionists have also stood up at Volvo Car Gent, Volvo Trucks and Volvo’s utility company MC Synchro.
At Volvo Car Gent, too few employees turned up on Wednesday morning to start the band.
No cars roll off the production line at the Volvo Car Gent factory, which is located in the port area. A minority of the 7,000 employees are present. It is not enough to keep the tire running for the morning shift. The employees present will be given other work.
In Leuven, production at the AB InBev brewery and depot has been shut down. The activists place a picket line at the company’s gate. ‘The campaign was well advertised in advance, also to the suppliers. Until noon, we only had to turn three trucks that were not well informed, says Tom Crabbé from ABVV to the news agency Belga.
Four out of ten companies in the technological manufacturing industry will experience only minimal inconvenience from the unions’ strike and action day on Wednesday. This appears from a study by the technology association Agoria. However, in approximately the same number of companies, at least half of the staff is absent, and around one in six companies in the sector is completely at a standstill.
More trouble in Wallonia
The genes in Wallonia are larger than in Flanders. In most of the provinces of Namur and Luxembourg and in part of Walloon Brabant there is no train service because there are not enough staff available. There are also no trains between Brussels Airport-Zaventem and Mons and Brussels Airport-Zaventem and Namur. The bus and tram network in Wallonia is almost at a standstill. In Charleroi there is no bus or tram service at all.