Coastal municipalities welcome back visitors, on three conditions


Following days of talks between federal and local authorities, agreements have been reached as to the regulation of visitors to beach towns

Summertime blues

Mayors of cities along the Flemish coast have reached agreements with police, ministers and rail service NMBS to allow visitors to come to the coast. There are three basic conditions that have been agreed to.

The arrangements were made following incidents in Knokke-Heist and Blankenberge, most recently a clash between young men from Brussels and local police in Blankenberge. There is also a problem with crowds in general, as more people are heading to the coast in lieu of holidays abroad due to coronavirus regulations. The current heat wave is significantly adding to the already inflated numbers.

The first condition: The NMBS will pull the extra trains that they had scheduled to handle coast traffic. It will also stop allowing passengers on board when the train is at 80% capacity. This will eliminate too many people arriving by rail and the problem of crowds at coastal train stations.

NMBS will operate a “stop & go” policy: When capacity is reached, people can get off the train, but no more passengers will be allowed on. Depending on how many people board in Brussels, trains could be at full capacity, then, by the time they reach cities further along the line, such as Ghent and Bruges.

Extra police in Blankenberge

Secondly, coastal municipalities can make decision to close their borders should the crowds get too dense. This would see police directing drivers to other coastal municipalities that are less busy.

Finally, Blankenberge will get police reinforcement. Police in the city are spread thin as security is required on the beach as well as in the train station. They are keeping an eye out for large groups of youth arriving, such as the one that caused trouble on the beach at the weekend.

“We understand that we will get help from the federal police,” said Blankenberge mayor Daphné Dumery (N-VA). “They are going to join our people in the train stations.”

In any case, this weekend should see a drop in numbers of visitors to the coast. Average temperatures will dip below 30°C for the first time in more than a week, and rain is expected – at the coast as elsewhere.

Photo ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA