The problems started around 7 o'clock this morning. "At that moment, 6 tracks for trains bound to the east and the centre of the country were out of service", explains Frédéric Petit of Infrabel, the organisation responsible for rail infrastructure.
Gent-Sint-Pieters is one of the busiest stations in Belgium, and the busy line to Brussels was cut off completely for some time. Hundreds of commuters got stranded on the platforms.
While several trains were cancelled, others had a serious delay, up to an hour and more. Getting on a train was not a guarantee for a swift journey: one train kept passengers waiting in the station for half an hour with closed doors, before it could finally depart.
Rail services to Antwerp and other places were also affected as the problems caused a major 'traffic jam' for trains in Ghent's main station.
Problems to continue until Saturday morning
During the course of the morning, 3 of the 6 tracks for Brussels-bound traffic could be reopened. However, delays could be seen for the rest of the day, as a lot of damage was done to the overhead wiring. The problem was caused by a train losing its pantograph (that takes the power from the overhead cables to the train).
There is some good news though: around 4pm, Frédéric Petit announced that 4 of the 6 tracks could be used again during the evening rush hour. This means an improvement on the one hand, but also disruptions and even cancellations on the other.Infrabel hopes to have everything repaired and to have the situation back to normal early on Saturday.