German ICE trains disrupted by Belgian strike

7th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 October 2005, BRUSSELS - The first countrywide strike in twelve years almost completely crippled Belgium Friday, with hundreds of thousands of employees heeding the call to stop work by the country's largest Socialist union, ABVV-FGTB.

7 October 2005

BRUSSELS - The first countrywide strike in twelve years almost completely crippled Belgium Friday, with hundreds of thousands of employees heeding the call to stop work by the country's largest Socialist union, ABVV-FGTB.

The union is fighting plans by the ruling liberal and socialist government to reform Belgium's welfare system.

High-speed trains to Amsterdam, Cologne, London and Paris did not run all day, nor did local public transport.

Schools remained closed, as did large supermarkets in the capital Brussels and the port of Antwerp.

Hospitals only provided emergency services, while school and kindergarten teachers gave their pupils a long weekend.

The country's aviation sector seemed well-prepared for the one-day stoppage, with most flights at the Brussels airport dispatched as normal, although thick fog caused delays.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt wants to ease the burden on the country's pension fund by forcing people to take retirement later or by imposing larger deductions on those that take early retirement.

The strike caused major problems for international high-speed trains crossing Belgium's border with thousands of passengers affected.

"There are no Thalys trains from Cologne to Brussels and Paris," German Railways (Deutsche Bahn, DB) spokesman Gerd Felser said in Cologne.

The German Intercity Express (ICE) high-speed train connection from Frankfurt to Paris via Cologne and Brussels was stopping at Aachen on the German border, Felser said.

"We can't get any further from there by rail," Felser said.

DB was providing a total of 37 buses to transport passengers beyond Aachen, but the journey time by road was difficult to judge.

"Whoever wants to travel to Paris today would be better taking the train to Luxembourg, Saarbruecken or Strasbourg. It's a longer train journey, but you'll be there more quickly than by bus," Felser said.

DB was replacing a total of eight ICE trains with bus journeys. "Customers are well-informed and are taking in the situation quietly and calmly," Felser said.

There were DB employees at the border with information in German, French and English, Felser added.

DPA

Subject: German news

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