Severe delays expected as Belgian rail staff strike

Brussels - European train passengers have been warned they face fresh strike action just as the summer holiday season begins, after a Belgian rail union announced it would take industrial action on Monday.

The SNCB, the Belgian national rail company, said it was expecting "severe disruption" with the walk-out due to hit both national and internation rail lines.

Both the Thalys network, which travels between Belgium, France, and Germany, and Eurostar, which travels to the UK, could be affected.

The railway workers union ACOD/CGSP said Friday it had called the 24 hour strike because the network is so understaffed that workers are unable to take days off.

While negotiations are still ongoing with management, the union told its members to prepare to strike between 22:00 local time on Sunday until Tuesday morning.

A SNCB spokesman said while the strike may not hit the entire network it was hard to predict the knock-on effect of union members staying home.

"The unions are damaging the image of SNCB by striking, they are sabotaging their own business," Jo Cornu, the head of the rail company, was quoted as saying in the Belgian press on Friday.

Thalys said that while it hoped to run as normal a service as possible, it was expecting delays and recommended that people due to travel to the region postpone their trips where possible.

Eurostar warned that the strike was expected to cause "major disruption across the Belgian rail network... (and) it may become necessary to cancel some services as well as introduce an amended timetable to and from Brussels".

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded earlier in the week during a strike by air traffic controllers in France, with after a number of flights cancelled.

Earlier in the month, France's rail network was hit by a crippling week of industrial action, with up to two-thirds of high-speed trains cancelled at the peak of the week-long strike.

siu/gg/ld/dh

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