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Belgian rail drivers strike after fatal collision

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-16

Belgian train drivers staged a spontaneous walkout Tuesday to protest their working conditions after a head-on crash between two rush-hour trains yesterday left 18 people dead.

REUTERS - Belgian train drivers went on strike on Tuesday, a day after a rail crash that killed 18 people, increasing disruption to local and international services.

Services were hit heaviest by the wildcat stoppage in Belgium’s southern region, Wallonia. Drivers in the Flemish city of Leuven, the origin of one of the two crashed trains, also stopped word.

“It’s a combination of factors—work pressure, lack of training, coupled with the emotional impact of the crash,” Jos Dignette, an ACOD public sector union official said, adding it was likely to last 24 hours.

“We understand and support this action, although we have not called it.”

Two commuter trains crashed head-on outside Brussels during Monday’s rush hour. According to the provincial governor, one of the trains had run past a red light.

The crash knocked out Eurostar services between Brussels and Britain and all trains to France, including the high-speed Thalys, which also runs to the Netherlands and Germany.

Belgian railway line operator Infrabel said Thalys trains were now travelling to Cologne and that Eurostar trains were running between London and Lille in France, with passengers able to take buses within Belgium.

Nevertheless both Eurostar and Thalys were advising passengers to postpone their travel.

Infrabel said it was not clear when services would fully return to normal. Emergency services had searched all the carriages, but had still not determined whether there were further victims underneath.

Only then would Infrabel be able to determine the degree of damage to overhead power lines.

The death toll from the accident stood at 18, with 171 people injured, making it Belgium’s deadliest train disaster  since the same number died following a derailment in 1974.

Date created : 2010-02-16


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