Railways, Strikes and Grandmothers

Brussels Travel Blog

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We had a railway strike in Belgium this week, the second this year. The first came about as train conductors demanded the right to close the door to the train before the train started moving, after a conductor was pulled out and ended up with his legs severed in a horrific accident. This second strike was spurred by management wanting "flexibility" aka, the ability to cut wages and cut jobs.

Do we value the railway staff enough? The 38000 staff carry over 200 million passengers and 60 million tons of freight over 10 billion kilometres a year. Each staff member on average generates 80 000 euro a year in income for the company (3 billion euro a year). One day without the rail and the country was crippled, costing business 5 million euros (indicating that the railways generate an additional 2 billion a year in productivity gains to other Belgian companies). And the social costs! Clogged highways, crowded buses, a million hours of leisure time must have been lost to commuting on this one day - what price do we put on that?

The rails have long been the most efficient way to move goods and people across Belgium. During WWII some of the most valuable intelligence on the Germany military came from old grandmothers, knitting on their balconies overlooking the railway tracks. For every troop carriage that went past they would drop one and for every artillery carriage they would pearl one. Without any soldiers getting suspicious they collated their data and passed it onto the resistance....

Adrian_Liston says:
That is a good point (going from Brussels to Leuven was not fun for me), but are the staff being treated like the staff of hospitals and fire stations?
Posted on: Nov 12, 2009
lamadude says:
I absolutely LOVE trains, I prefer them over any other form of transport, but I was still angry when they went on strike. Hundreds of thousands of people depend on the railway network to get to work, all those people are being taken hostage in a way because of the strike, which also will mean a big loss for the economy on that day.
I feel that the railways should be treated the same way as the hospitals and fire stations, they are a basic right of the people, and even when they strike they should still provide a basic service.
Posted on: Nov 07, 2009
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photo by: Vlindeke