A Belgian train driver is deliberately running his engine slowly – in order to get fired and move to a better job.

Cédric Grumiaux currently works for state railway SNCB, but recently landed a new job with a rival private operator.

But the reason for engine driver's go-slow is because the SNCB has upped its notice period from one month to one year, in a bid to keep hold of its drivers.

Grumiaux's service between Mons and Liège arrived 37 minutes late on Tuesday (9 January), much to the annoyance of his passengers.

He told Belgian broadcaster RTBF: "The safety is respected, we do not bother colleagues, there are people who have arrived late, I apologise for that.

"What happened is that they changed the rules during the game. From one month to one year, it is unfair. I understand that I risk a penalty, in theory they can fire me right away, but you will understand that this option does not worry me."

Grumiaux added that around 70 other drivers at his local depot plan to leave for rival operators. In total, the SNCB employs 3,500 drivers across the national network.

Drivers at the public firm are being tempted by private rivals, who offer better pay and company cars among their benefits. The Belgian rail network was first opened up to private companies and foreign competition in 2007.

Holding staff against their will

The SNCB said it extended its notice period for drivers in 2016 to make sure it had enough to maintain a national service.

SNCB spokesman Thierry Ney said: "It's an unacceptable action. There are forums for dialogue and we cannot take the customers as hostage."

He added: "At SNCB, a driver is trained for 12 to 18 months. He is paid during this period. Public money has been invested in his training, so it makes sense to protect against premature departure. It's also a way to preserve the continuity of public service, which is done in other institutions as well."

The public firm admitted 80 drivers resigned last year, but added it plans to recruit 300 this year.

Train union CSC Transcom opposed the SNCB's move to put drivers on longer contracts, but does not back driver go-slows.

However, union general manager Marianne Lerouge said: "In any company, it's not a solution to hold staff against their will."

The SNCB and the union say they are due to open talks over higher driver pay, improved bonuses and lighter schedules.

Inez De Coninck, a MP for the Flemish conservative NVA party, called the driver's go-slow "reprehensible".

She added: "The person is abusing public resources for his personal interest and does not show the loyalty that is expected of an employee."