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On the night of 31 October to 1 November, a Belgian train driver found himself entangled in a situation in which his train was halted by youths who repeatedly activated the train’s emergency brakes, overt physical aggression and mental abuse, all the while bearing witness the insufficiency of Belgian rule of law.

In a long Facebook post, since then picked up by Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, Kevin Eli, the train driver, recalls the event:

We have been humiliated, insulted, threatened, physically assaulted, (…) verbally abused, prevented from doing our job (…). We tried to do our best to inform everybody as best we could during this, that’s what I call it anyway, hostage situation. (…) What sort of society have we been lead in?

It all starts with about 300 youths, who had visited the night-opening of the Walibi amusement park, getting on the train at Ottignies. There is no problem until just before Brussels. There he is forced to make a stop from 120 km/u because someone pulled the emergency brake. At that point the train is in a tunnel close to a train station. Kevin and the train’s supervisor make their way through the train, which is in chaos, resetting 4 emergency brakes in one carriage.

Meanwhile multiple youths of foreign origin try and make our job as difficult as possible, laughing in our faces. I returned to the locomotive, but there I notice that there are more emergency brakes that have been used, or used again. Contact with the outside world, traffic control, police, is nearly impossible because we’re in the tunnel. Nobody, except me and the supervisor, know why the train isn’t moving.

The two go back in the train. Things are thrown at them, the supervisor is threatened for the first time, Kevin loses him in the confusion. Again, emergency brakes are used. The youth get more and more aggressive, a fight breaks out between two groups, one group accusing the other of misusing the brakes and wanting it to stop.

A Sisyphean task. An enormous chaos.

Kevin tries to contact the police on the emergency number. Barely able to keep the connection, he gets in a few words about the situation, before being cut off. Not knowing if help is on its way, worried for the safety of his colleague, he goes back into the train.

When I open the door to a compartment, the curtains closed, filled with smoke and stinking of canabis, I’m pushed out by a gang. I get back in and rearmed the emergency brake. One of them, his face I will not quickly forget, pushes his face in mine. He laughs at me in my face. ‘What are you going to do?’ interspersed with swears.

Kevin manages to find the supervisor, but they are helpless to get the train going again. Standing outside the train, demoralised by the threats and complete lack of respect, they are close to giving up. Then 30 police officers arrive at the scene. The emergency brakes are reset again, the officers checking identification, and it looks like they can finally leave. But when Kevin tries to get the train moving again, the brakes have been pulled again.

At that point I had had it, I had lost the will to continue with the whole useless mess. The atmosphere was getting more and more grim, an oppressive and unsafe feeling took hold of me.

Even police presence does not prevent misuse of the emergency brakes, and the decision is made to evacuate the train.

We have had to evacuate hundreds of passengers in a tunnel with 30 police officers. One woman was wounded because she fell during the evacuation, one woman with three children was threatened by ‘a third party’, travellers in panic, 2 people became unwell in the train, the stench of cannabis throughout the train, fire extinguishers on the ground, doors broken… (…) Long live the scum of society!

HLN reports that the suspects have not been detained and have not been charged either.