Public transport at a standstill in Brussels on Monday

Bus drivers across Belgium pulled over at 10 AM on Monday morning as a mark of respect for the MIVB staff member who was killed while at work on Saturday. The staff member of the Brussels local transport company MIVB received a blow to the face as he was attending the scene of an accident in which an MIVB bus was involved.

The blow was inflicted by a friend of the car driver. He has now been arrested.

Public transport in Brussels remains at a standstill as MIVB staff are staging a stoppage in protest against the violence. Bus, tram and metro services in the capital are only expected to return to normal after a meeting between the unions, the management and the Belgian Interior Minister, Joëlle Milquet (Francophone Christian democrat), on Monday afternoon.

The meeting is expected to look at extra security measures.

The MIVB management is proposing that members of the federal police reserve are deployed across the transport network, also at ground level. They are also seeking the reintroduction of check points at places where large numbers of passengers gather as well as the introduction of a special telephone number that can be used to sound the alarm in the event of an incident.

Representatives of the Interior and Justice ministries attending the meeting are eager to consider what concrete action can be taken. The Brussels Prime Minister Charles Picqué (Francophone Socialist) and the Brussels Transport Minister Brigitte Grouwels (Flemish Christian democrat) are also attending the meeting.

The transport company's director general Kris Lauwers says that the MIVB is already doing an awful lot to ensure safety that should not be allowed to become the company’s core business. The company employs some 300 staff members to guarantee safety. Mr Lauwers spoke of a problem of growing violence in society at large and attacked the impunity that many aggressive people enjoy. He said that it was only coincidental that an MIVB bus had been involved in the incident and that it was now up to the authorities to guarantee greater security in the Belgian capital.

In order to show their abhorrence of the crime that felled their colleague drivers of the Flemish and Walloon local transport companies, De Lijn and TEC, pulled over at 10 AM and staged a minute's silence. Also in train stations the travelling public was asked to observe a silence.

On Monday and on Sunday MIVB employees staged a silent march to the spot in the port of Brussels where their colleague was killed. The transport company has also opened a book of condolences where members of the public can express their feelings. There is a special facebook page too.

Taxis hard to get

The stoppage at the Brussels local transport company MIVB has left many people in a quandary. Especially for tourists visiting the Belgian capital for Easter it's been hard getting about.

Many foreign tourists have been surprised by the stoppage.

On Sunday and Monday taxi services were oversubscribed and many people faced a hard time getting hold of a taxi.

Taxi companies report a fivefold increase in the number of call-outs. Taxi businesses have full order books and waiting times have ballooned.