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Faulty hand-dryer paralyses train traffic at Brussels Central station

08:49 13/04/2023

A faulty hand-dryer prompted the evacuation of Brussels Central station and caused a ripple of delays throughout the Belgian rail system.

Some 113 trains were partially or completely cancelled and, elsewhere, trains were delayed.

In total about 630 trains were affected due to the incident, accounting for more than 8,600 minutes of accumulated delays.

“For safety reasons, Brussels-Central was evacuated,” SNCB spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman told Bruzz.

“All trains were held up for a while in the stations in front of Brussels-Central or diverted via other routes as far as possible.”

Brussels Central is a major bottleneck for rail traffic in Belgium, with trains from all over the country funneled through just six tracks.

With a train arriving on each platform every three minutes in rush hours, the slightest delay has a domino effect on other services.

A faulty hand-dryer in one of the public toilets of the station caused smoke to appear near tracks 5 and 6 when it short circuited.

“The cables probably started to smoulder,” Infrabel spokesperson Thomas Baeken said.

“Then the smoke spread into the station area and was picked up by the fire protection system. The fire had no safety impact on rail traffic, but this was not known at the beginning, hence the decision to stop train traffic between Brussels-South and Brussels-North stations.”

For safety reasons and at the request of the fire brigade, the entire tunnel was closed. No trains were blocked in the tunnel.

After inspection by the fire brigade, train traffic was allowed to resume, but delays continued for several hours.

“One in three trains in Belgium passes through the North-South junction,” Baeken said, explaining why the ripple effect of the incident was so large.

Written by Helen Lyons