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Home >> out of the menu >> Forum >> Working Groups >> Communication Strategies and Practices >> Belgium: The train with a disability runs 24 hours late

Belgium: The train with a disability runs 24 hours late

July 8th 2015

De trein met een handicap heeft een vertraging van 24 uur / Les trains handicapés ont un retard probable de 24 heures

Description

The use of public transportation often poses problems for persons with disabilities. This campaign addresses the problems they experience when travelling by train. The accessibility of trains and train stations is still seen as an impossible investment. This is often due to a lack of general policy on accessibility. There are also several cultural and regulatory obstacles to be dealt with.

The Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and the High National Council for Persons with a Disability wanted to address this issue on the International Day of Persons with a Disability. Until now, persons with a disability have to book their trip at least 24 hours in advance. The train company says this timing is necessary to ensure they can be assisted for travelling.

Because this regulation limits the freedom of persons with a disability, the campaign highlights the following questions:

  • The repeal of the 24 hours ‘delay’ for disabled persons
  • Raising the accessibility of the train infrastructure and giving better assistance on the entire railway network
  • Respect for the individual rights of persons with disabilities: the right to work, participation in public life, freedom of movement. The NMBS (Belgian National Railways) must comply to these requirements along the Belgian antidiscrimination regulations and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The 24 hours rule isn’t founded, according to the Centre. In The Netherlands, persons with a disability have to announce their travel 3 hours in advance and there are plans to reduce this to 1 hour. It’s not unreasonable to ask an improvement of the Belgian system.

During the awareness-raising action which took place on the International Day of Persons with a Disability, commuters at the Central stations were asked by fake controllers (actors from the improvisation league) if they had correctly booked their tickets the day before. When commuters replied they didn’t, they were told by the fake controllers that unfortunately, they wouldn’t be allowed to travel today. Commuters were then informed that this was an action to raise awareness about the 24 hours rule for people with a disability.

Announcements were also made throughout the station, with loudspeakers, that “trains with a disability run 24 hours late”

We also put up banners in the Central Train Station and the action was filmed by a professional TV crew form the national television.

The same day, we asked (and obtained) a meeting with the direction of the train company.

Media were of course invited to make reports about the action.

Social Context

The use of public transportation often poses problems for persons with disabilities. This campaign addresses the problems they experience when travelling by train. The accessibility of trains and train stations is still seen as an impossible investment. This is often due to a lack of general policy on accessibility. There are also several cultural and regulatory obstacles to be dealt with.

Target Audience

With this campaign, the Centre addresses two audiences. The general public is informed about the problem. After the public part of the campaign, the director of the Centre met the board of the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS) to explain the problem and the solutions proposed by the Centre.

Languages

Dutch and French

Technical Requirements

Need for internal support + some strictly technical aspects related to the event (material to be installed at the station)

Cost of the Action

  • Internal funding + 30,000 euros for material, actors, costumes, agency fees etc.
  • 10 colleagues involved on the day of the action, for 3 hours.

Values

The main values the campaign wanted to communicate about are : equality, independence and freedom (of movement) => inclusive society.

Information about copyright

Not applicable

Dissemination

For this campaign we developed :

  • A logo, similar to that of the logo of the NMBS, with a ‘24u’ written instead of the letter ‘B’
  • Banners
  • Flyers to give to train travellers
  • We filmed the intervention in the train station and published this on our Youtube channel and Facebook page.
  • Badges with the logo

Some examples:

Challenges

It was winter, problems occurred with many trains being delayed on that day. Our fake announcements were “lost” between real announcements of trains running late. We therefore had to stop the action 1 hour earlier. However the first 2 hours were successful, generating a lot of interest from commuters.

For the rest: the action was well planned, no other obstacles.

We had requested (and obtained) permission for an action (without being too explicit about the action ;-) at the train station before.

Public Perception

Several national media reported about the campaign. See for example hln.be (in Dutch)

Perception of Target Audience

Excellent, as they were involved in the preparation of the event.

Internal Impact on work of Equality Body

The number of cases related to disability is increasing, but this is not only a consequence of the action.

Policy Impact

The 24-hour delay is still a requirement - this still hasn’t been changed. But the awareness among political parties about this problem, is better. In the Parliamentary Commission Mobility, the debate about this 24 hour delay is still going on. A resolution with the intention of bringing down the reservation time to one hour, has been adopted. Also, the Belgian Minister of Mobility is considering lowering the delay to two hours, which would already be an improvement. The Belgian National Railways consider their 24 hour delay still as a very good standard, compared to the 48 hours reservation time, as mentioned in the Rail Passengers Rights (Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations).

Other Relevant Information

This campaign is also presented on our website: in Dutch and French.

Contact

Nadine Brauns, Head of Communications, Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities
Email: nadine.Brauns@cntr.be