Gas leak blocks single approach road to Brussels Airport

Summary

The weakness of having only one approach road to Brussels Airport showed itself yesterday when a gas leak backed up traffic, causing passengers to miss their flights

“Unworkable”

The existence of only one approach road for road traffic to Brussels Airport is “unworkable,” according to the Flemish chamber of commerce (Voka). The organisation was reacting to the incident of yesterday morning when a gas leak in a neighbouring building caused massive tailbacks on the A201, leading to chaos for passengers arriving to catch flights.

A gas leak was detected at about 7.30 in one of the airport’s technical buildings, located on a road that adjoins the A201. The road was closed, leading to traffic backed up on the A201 and the Brussels ring road. Further tailbacks followed when drivers tried to find alternative routes via Woluwelaan and the centre of Zaventem. Power company Eandis closed off the leak, caused by digging works, at about 8.30, and the road was re-opened, but effects were felt on traffic for hours.

“The second most important economic gateway to our country, the national airport, can only be reached by one route,” complained Paul Hegge, director-general of Voka Halle-Vilvoorde. “Today we saw how an incident on that route immediately leads to problems,” he said. “Luckily the situation was resolved relatively quickly, but the results of a more serious incident don’t bear thinking about.”

Voka repeated calls for the creation of a second approach linking the airport with the E40 from Leuven, which would not only function as an alternative route in the case of similar incidents, but could attract traffic away from the saturated Brussels ring.

About a dozen flights were delayed as they chose to wait for passengers to arrive, according to airport spokesperson Florence Muls. Another 50 people who missed their flights were offered free transfers.  

“After the A201 was closed, we got in touch with passengers immediately and asked them to leave on time and to take the train to the airport,” she said. “A number of airlines decided to wait for passengers and let the flight depart a little later than scheduled. The impact on flights all in all was limited.”

Some passengers abandoned their vehicles on approach roads in an attempt to get to the airport on foot. They will face fines when they return from their travels, said police.

Photo by Laurie Dieffembacq/Belga