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Stib ticket inspectors given more powers to tackle drinking, vandalism and begging
Brussels public transport operator Stib is giving its ticket inspectors more power to fight nuisances on the network, allowing them to fine passengers up to 15 metres beyond a station or stop.
Fines start at €50 and can go up to €175. The list of offences will also be expanded to include, among other things, eating in the carriages, playing music, spitting, consuming alcohol and drugs, occupying more than one seat - as a result of behaviour and not size - and carrying a "large backpack".
Using a bicycle that cannot be folded and causes a nuisance is also among the offences, although mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) stressed that this does not mean that bicycles are no longer welcome on public transport.
“More and more metros and trams are equipped to transport bicycles, it is mainly about older metro trains where non-folding bicycles can cause inconvenience,” her spokesperson Pieterjan Desmet said.
“We are absolutely not targeting backpacks or bikes, we are targeting criminal behaviour that hinders or endangers other passengers.”
Inspectors must always be able to prove that other travellers are effectively inconvenienced or endangered by any offence, Desmet said.
“There will definitely not be a ban on large backpacks,” he clarified. “A student with a hiking backpack or someone going to the market with a caddy can take it on public transport without any problems. The same goes for tourists and their suitcases.”
According to the government, the current legal regulations for controllers were too vague, which meant that nuisances on the network could not always be dealt with. The updated legal framework lists what Stib controllers can give fines for in the future.
“The legal framework for controllers has existed since 2007, but is now being updated and adapted to the current context of society,” said Desmet, explaining that the update should make metro, tram and bus stations safer and give inspectors more authority to maintain order in stations.
Last year, reports of drug users in metro stations rose by 70% and homelessness also remains a persistent problem.
But giving inspectors more power as a solution has come under criticism from some MPs, especially the language of the measure regarding "large backpacks".
Brussels MP Els Rochette (one.brussels) said issuing fines to a drug addict or homeless person makes little sense, instead advocating that Stib recruit social workers instead of having more people write out fines.
Brussels MP Cieltje Van Achter (N-VA) also questioned whether the measures were enough to guarantee safety in metro traffic, preferring to introduce zero tolerance: “We do not accept drugs on public transport.”
Van Den Brandt said the new measures were accompanied by preventive solutions and collaborations with the police and the social sector, stressing the importance of working with partner organisations, “because homelessness and addiction transcend the competence of Stib”.