Brussels public transport halted

2012-04-08 14:00

Brussels - Buses, trams and metro trains in the Belgian capital were halted for the whole Easter weekend after a transport controller called to the scene of a road accident was beaten to death on Saturday.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo joined the expressions of outrage at the attack, which provoked angry transport workers and union officials to agree the action in response to the attack, which they said was symptomatic of a wider problem.

The 56-year-old official was attacked on Saturday after being called out to an accident involving a car and a bus shortly before 07:00, Francoise Ledune, spokesperson for the city's public transport authority STIB, told AFP.

Attacked by the car driver, he was taken to hospital in a critical condition where he later died. He had been "beaten to death", said Ledune.

Brussels prosecutor Bruno Bulthe, said later the suspected assailant had been arrested and deplored what he called "gratuitous violence".

Talks to be held

"As far as we know and based on evidence collected on the spot only one person hit" the controller, he told reporters.

All bus, metro and tram services traffic would be halted for three days, she added. The decision was taken on Saturday after a meeting between STIB management and the unions.

Whether traffic resumed on Tuesday afternoon would depend on the outcome of talks with Interior Minister Joelle Milquet at 14:30 that day, trade unions warned.

"Nothing will move before talks with the minister," said Robert Timmermans of the CSC-Transcom transport and communications union.

"We expect clear and firm measures and no small steps," Timmermans added. "The security problem in public transport is not new."

Ledune said STIB management and the unions were aware of the fact that "urban aggression goes beyond what the company can do about it".

Di Rupo called in a statement for a swift trial and "the severest punishment" for whoever was responsible.

"Violence has no place in our society, one of whose fundamental principles is mutual respect in all circumstances," he said.

At the interior ministry, Milquet condemned what she said "a criminal act of extreme violence".

She would propose measures to improve security on public transport at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, she said.

According to the latest statistics available, 773 passengers were attacked while using public transports in Brussels in 2010, and 193 STIB staff.

- SAPA

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