Belgium ‘no-go’ warning triggers transit uncertainty for British travellers

Journey from Cologne to Calais would take three hours longer to avoid Belgium and Luxembourg

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 07 August 2020 08:53 BST
Danger zone? Passing through stations such as Antwerp Central makes travellers liable for quarantine in the UK.
Danger zone? Passing through stations such as Antwerp Central makes travellers liable for quarantine in the UK. (Simon Calder)

British holidaymakers planning to travel to or from Continental destinations including Germany and the Netherlands face uncertainty about whether they will need to detour by hundreds of miles to avoid Belgium and Luxembourg.

On Thursday night, Belgium was removed from the list of “safe” countries, along with Andorra and the Bahamas.

With the Foreign Office warning against non-essential travel, and the Department for Transport removing Belgium from the quarantine-exempt list, the number of holidaymakers and business travellers is likely to fall sharply.

Belgium is also a key international crossroads for travellers from the UK to the Netherlands, Germany and beyond, by both rail and road.

The Department for Transport (DfT) rules make it clear that rail passengers returning from Continental Europe via the Eurostar link from Brussels to London St Pancras must quarantine on arrival in the UK.

Similarly, if a UK-bound car or coach stops in Belgium, all the occupants will be subject to two weeks of self-isolation.

But there is no clarity about the case in which a vehicle drives straight through Belgium, not stopping to refuel or for any other purpose.

Between Maastricht in the Netherlands and Calais, the road distance is 200 miles – representing around three hours’ drive. Aachen in Germany is about 15 miles further from the Channel port.

Should quarantine be required, it will persuade many holidaymakers to go the long way around, avoiding both Belgium and Luxembourg (which has also lost its exemption). This will add many miles and hours to the journey.

Between Calais and Cologne, for example, the 263-mile journey increases to 426 miles with a detour around the south of Luxembourg – representing three hours extra driving.

The Independent is seeking clarification from the DfT on the rules for road users.

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