Belgian rail issues

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by WatcherZero, 12 Jan 2018 at 21:52.

  1. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    Few more details, SNCB say 10% of their 3,500 drivers are serving their mandatory notice period and the period was extended from 1 month to 1 year in 2016 because so many were quitting as soon as they qualified, the training lasts 12-18 months at full pay and all training materials are paid for. As well as higher pay than the state sector the private sector are offering drivers company cars.

    The state company was already in talks with the union on reducing the mandatory notice period but the driver decided he couldn't wait and launched 'Operation Escargot' as he dubbed it to try and get sacked, then going to the media and revealing it is also a tactic to further accelerate his dismissal though I doubt it will endear him to his future employer. The train he was driving takes 1hr57 so he was slowing it by 31%.
     
  2. 43096

    43096 Established Member

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    What should happen is that he is suspended with no/minimal pay for the rest of his notice period, but no doubt that is not legal. Could they consider revoking his licence to drive, as that would have an impact on his future employment?
     
  3. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    Possibly a no-compete clause could be a legal avenue, specify they cant work the same job for 3 years after leaving unless they've worked for 5 years. Similar is done for newly qualified doctors.

    Mmm looking into it no compete causes are legal in Belgium but only for a duration of 1 year after signing an employment contract and require half wages to be paid while the no compete period is being served, so pretty much same situation.
     
  4. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    No compete clauses are rather unfair in my book. However, it's probably not unreasonable to have a sliding scale of repayment of training costs. The other employer could then choose to pay that for you if they really want you.
     
  5. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    Payment (salary) seems to be low compared with other competitors in Belgium.
     
  6. Flying Snail

    Flying Snail Member

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    Some sort of payback of training costs is reasonable but any scheme to hold onto staff for a year is only putting off the inevitable as well as forcing people to work safety critical jobs under duress, a really bad way to be running a railway. Newly qualified drivers that don't want to be there sounds like a pretty red flag for safe operation to me.

    Really the only solution to a situation like that is to match the salary offered by competitors, if they can stem the flow to the private sector then they will also have to get their drivers by training from scratch, probably bringing wage pressure down again.
     
  7. MotCO

    MotCO Member

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    Isn't a no-compete clause illegal as a 'restraint of trade'?
     
  8. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    Certainly in UK law there doesn't seem to be anything to stop someone going to a competitor, except preventing them taking up the job until the expiry of the contractual notice period (gardening leave). As the person in question has to be paid during the period that's not too attractive to the employer. There are restrictions on using inside knowledge gained in a previous job but that doesn't really apply to a skill like train driving.

    Might be better for them to insert a clause that drivers would have to pay back some or all of their training cost (or their pay while training) if they leave within a certain period afterwards. But unlikely to work retrospectively.
     
  9. rg177

    rg177 Established Member

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    I was wondering what was up with Belgian rail staff when I was over there two weeks ago. Seemed very lethargic and unenthusiastic, and some were downright rude for seemingly no reason. Had one single conductor out of maybe 40 actually smile and thank me when he did tickets! Operation did often seem very sluggish too, with unusually long pauses when conductors gave the right away from stations and time being lost from mere slow running.

    Clearly this discontent among drivers isn't helping.
     
  10. TheSeeker

    TheSeeker Member

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    My commute is from Braine L'alleud to Antwerp on the Charleroi-Antwerp line and there is a massive amount of padding in the timetable. The train often makes up 10 minutes delay and still arrives on time. Also I think they change crew in Brussels Midi so the stop there can be up to 5 minutes. As for the staff, very difficult to say. Everything is so localised in Belgium that some staff may just have a problem with their local management.
     
  11. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    Not if it can be proven that the person has access to privileged information that they could share with a competitor or supplier, or has received a large investment in training from their previous employer.
    They are enforceable in most US states, Canada, Europe, India and Pakistan at least. In the UK senior civil servants automatically have a no compete clause applied that stops them working for a supplier of the Government for a certain period without approval, they are also used in the recruitment and legal fields to stop clients being poached by competitors.
     
  12. rg177

    rg177 Established Member

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    That's very true- I did notice that as well. The only delay that I was irritated by particularly was on the Leuven-Ottignies line where I almost missed my Brussels (express) connection and subsequent connections because of this slow response from the driver to get going. I only made it because the connection was late.

    The only earth-shattering delay I had was between Midi and Gent-Sint Pieters where for whatever reason we didn't break about 30mph the entire way and ended up over half an hour late.

    Staff- You may well also be right. Around Liege they were genuinely unpleasant and was twice accused of having an invalid ticket (because the staff didn't read it) and on a service off Knokke, the conductor tried to boot me out of first class and wasn't particularly apologetic when I pointed to the 'First Class' written on my pass.

    On the line to Ronse/Renaix was the one time a conductor was very chirpy and he did admittedly go above and beyond being 'friendly' and was telling me about his adventures in the UK using his FIP, noting my Interrail. RPI stings (well large groups of inspectors) also seemed very prim and proper and while they clearly didn't take any nonsense it was all 'please, sir...thank you, sir.'

    I think i'm looking unfavourably on the Belgian network as I'd just come out of the Netherlands where staff quite literally *all* made a point of doing whatever they could for passengers and reliability was essentially flawless. That's something we don't get in the UK either :lol:
     
    Last edited: 15 Jan 2018 at 21:52
  13. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    rather surprised to read this. I never had any major delays on SNCB/NMBS trains. I travel in Belgium about 4 times a year.
    The only major delays was on the Thalys train to Germany.
     
  14. AlexNL

    AlexNL Member

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    This is due to the Belgian departure process: after a guard closes all doors except for their local one, they have to operate a key on the platform (the "AVG", TRTS indicator). After that they have 10 seconds to get back into their train before the train will start moving.

    Infrabel are centralising their boxes into traffic control centres, and are rolling out automatic route setting (ARS). Signallers are instructed to let ARS do most of their job, and they should focus on keeping a birds-eye view of running the network.

    Infrabel's ARS system is programmed in a way which keeps trains strictly to their schedule. Starter signals aren't cleared until the train's planned departure time, even if there isn't any pointwork beyond it. As a result, the signal prior to the platform will display a caution aspect and train drivers will thus drive as if they're approaching a signal at danger.

    The Belgian train protection system, TBL1+, will apply the emergency brake if a train approaches a signal at danger too fast. The trigger for this (a separate balise) is rather conservative as a train must have slowed down to at most 40 km/h 300 metres before the SaD. Under ETCS protection, the enforced braking curve is even worse.

    As a result, more and more trains are "crawling" towards their stops and journey times keep getting longer. Oh, the progress...
     
  15. MarcVD

    MarcVD Member

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    Usage of ARS by SNCB is quite recent and the system quite sophisticated (it comes from Switzerland) so I'm sure its usage will improve. They will soon learn how to use it to open signals a few minutes in advance if there is no conflicting traffic expected...
     

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