Possibly you have missed your train due to a faulty escalator or have been confronted by another specimen when you alight at Brussels Central after a long journey. It’s best to look on the bright side. Can’t we all do with a bit of extra exercise? The problems, though, really start, when people who can’t climb the stairs encounter faulty lifts and escalators.
Lawmaker Joris Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) quizzed mobility minister François Bellot (Francophone liberal) about this issue in parliament. He says he’s received countless reports about faulty equipment: “It should be easy for everybody to reach the platform” he insists.
It’s above all people with prams, handicaps and the elderly who suffer. In all Belgian stations possess 310 escalators and 250 lifts. Many escalators are old, but Mr Vandenbroucke points to one specimen in Ghent that is only 3 years old and regularly out of service.
Belgian rail spends 2 million euros on lift servicing annually, concedes private companies often take too long to do the work and imposes fines if deadlines are not met. The state-owned company plans major investments on improving access to platforms in coming years. By 2022 the number of escalators must rise by a third. A quarter of existing escalators need to be replaced. Some escalators have been doing their job for a quarter of a century.