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Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 10:22 UK

Strike hits Belgium's rail links

Gridlock on a motorway near Brussels early on 6 October 2008
Some motorways in Belgium were clogged with miles of traffic

A general strike has severely disrupted public transport in Belgium, forcing cancellation of Eurostar rail services.

The 24-hour industrial action by Belgium's unions virtually paralysed domestic rail and bus services across the country.

All Eurostar services from Brussels to London and Lille are also suspended.

The unions are protesting against the rising cost of living and what they see as a government failure to fulfil promises to ease inflation.

Belgium has been in political crisis for the past 15 months amid divisions between French and Flemish speakers.

Warning to government

The strike by Belgium's three main unions began at 2200 local time (2000 GMT) on Sunday, forcing the closure of the Gare du Midi and Brussels Central - the two main railway stations in Brussels.

Eurostar star heading from Brussels to London
No Eurostar services are running between London and Brussels

It also affected metro and bus services in the capital.

"There are hardly any services to Brussels," Frederic Petit, spokesman for train operator Infrabel, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The strike also led to the cancellation of all Thalys rail services to France, Germany and the Netherlands.

No Eurostar trains were running between Brussels and Lille, the company said.

It said that - because of the amended timetable following last month's fire in the Channel Tunnel - no trains were operating between Lille and the UK either.

The unions are protesting against what they say is the government's inability to respond to rising prices and curb inflation.

"We had to send a warning to the government and employers," Rudy de Leeuw, head of the ABVV union, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

"They have to explain to us how it was able to get so bad. What we need is purchasing power, work and good services," he said.

Business groups have said they will take legal action against unions if they tried to picket in an effort to block people or deliveries from entering company premises during the strike, AP said.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Belgium
10 Jul 08 |  Country profiles

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