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Belgian Rail activates emergency procedures

Belgium’s state-owned rail company has taken the unprecedented step of urging passengers to pick another destination instead of the coast.  The rail company is struggling to cope with the large numbers of people eager to spend a day at the seaside now the weather is glorious, while keeping everybody safe.

It's particularly busy at Brussels North, one of the three main Brussels stations on the route to the Flemish Riviera.  Long queues have formed as passengers are obliged to wait before being allowed up to the platform.  Despite the ban on alcoholic beverages in public, the seaside resort of Blankenberge has proved to be a particularly popular destination.

The rail company is asking passengers to consult the crowd barometer of the West Flemish Tourist Authority before they set off or to choose a different destination for their outing.  The government has banned people from using aisle seats on services to the coast during the Easter break, but that is still days away. Out of season Belgian Rail isn’t running any extra services either. As a result the company is trying to channel passengers at stations.  This means passengers are not allowed onto platforms if trains are too crowded!

In the course of Tuesday as pressure mounted the rail company activated its emergency plan. Under the plan Belgian Rail puts more security staff on stand-by and electronic signs are erected outside stations along the Flemish coast to ensure passengers are adequately informed.

The Mayor of Ostend, Bart Tommelein (Flemish liberal), who has repeatedly clashed with the rail company in the past due to what he sees as its failure to take action, said: Pressure on stations in the interior processing coast-bound passengers is too great.”

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