A 48-hour rail strike began late Tuesday in Belgium, where commuters were prepared for likely disruptions of train services across much of the country and beyond.
The industrial action was called by trade unions in Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia and is also likely to have a heavy impact on the capital, Brussels, the Belga news agency wrote.
It is also expected to affect international rail services to and from Belgium operating on the Thalys network between Paris and the German city of Cologne, as well as Eurostar railway connections to France and Britain, SNCB wrote on its website. The Thalys network will be completely shut down, and German high-speed ICE trains will not travil to Belgium.
French high-speed trains will stop before reaching Belgium. Rail services between the Swiss city of Basel and Brussels will end in Luxembourg. Passengers should check online for updates on travel to and from Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the rail operator advised.
The CSC-Transcom and CGSP-Cheminots trade unions organized the strike in protest against a government plan to modernize Belgian railway operations, which they say will lead to job losses, budget cuts and a dismantling of railway infrastructure.
The Federation of Belgian Enterprises criticized the strike action, calling it "unacceptable, irresponsible and counterproductive," while arguing that it would have an economic impact and harm the country's image.
Strikes and labour protests are not a rare occurrence in Belgium. Last year, thousands joined rallies against austerity measures, while road and rail transport was repeatedly paralyzed in 2014 by several rounds of industrial action.