The Anonymous Widower

I’m Off To The Hague Today

Is there any other train journey between two capitals in the world, that is more difficult now than it was six or seven years ago?

When I first did this trip, I was able to buy a Eurostar ticket from London to Any Dutch Station, as many visitors to The Netherlands did.

But when Fyra; the high-speed train started, this was not possible any more. I couldn’t even get to the Dutch capital without a second change.

Today, I’ve bought a Eurostar ticket to any Belgian Station and will go to Antwerp for a spot of lunch, before I buy a ticket to Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie, so that I avoid all the hassle of using Dutch local ticketing, which will mean buying an Oyster-style card.

I will then use Shanks’s Pony to get to my final destination.

If that is progress, you can stick it up your backside.

Suppose to go between London and Edinburgh, you had to change trains at Newcastle or Berwick! Even the most rabid of Scottish Independence advocates, would never want a service like that between Scotland and England!

Also, if I was going to most important stations in Switzerland, I can buy one ticket from London.

Surely, this should apply to all major cities in Europe, that are within say five or six hours from London.

Going the other way, I could buy a ticket from say Paris direct to virtually anywhere in the UK.

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Liège-Guillemins Station

As I wandered my way back to Brussels for the Eurostar, I just had to stop of at Liège-Guillemins station and take some pictures.

Is there another station like it in the world? This Google Map shows the layout.

LiegeStation

It is a design by Santiago Calatrava. Let’s hope that the Belgians did a good job on building this station. In 2007, I saw some of his buildings in Valencia and the concrete hadn’t worn well!

The totally new station cost €312million, which compares with £500million for the restoration and extension of Kings Cross station. Compare these figures with the reported £44million for the restoration of Manchester Victoria station, the complete reconstruction of Reading and Birmingham New Street stations.

Direct comparisons are difficult, but I cam’t help feeling, that in terms of cost, Manchester Victoria station is out of line with the others. It just shows that god design is often cheaper than bad.

One difference between the British projects and Liège-Guillemins station, is that the British ones are or were updating of existing stations, whereas the Belgian one was a new station built a short distance away.

Perhaps in some ways, to combine rebuilding with moving the station is a better plan, as both Reading and Birmingham New Street could be thought expensive compared to Liège-Guillemins.

So with all the problems there have been during the rebuilding of London Bridge station, would it have been better to have put the rail lines through in an optimal manner for operational purposes and perhaps created a new station further South.

London Bridge station was and still is a difficult problem, but hopefully it’ll be spot on when it opens.

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Through The Ardennes

I hadn’t thought I’d see much, but the route through the Ardennes was rather pretty.

The train was a single-decker, as the pictures show.

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

The Slow Way From Wuppertal To Brussels

I had intended to get some food in Wuppertal after riding the Schwebebahn, but the town centre wasn’t very visitor friendly, due to the massive building works between the two railways. So after the Schwebebahn, I decided to get the first train to Cologne, which just happened to be an ICE.

At Cologne, I decidd it would be a good idea to take a series of slow regional trains to Brussels.

I went via Aachen and Liege, taking pictures along the way. Some like

A Station With An Attached Chapel And Hotel

Through The Ardennes

The station at Liège-Guillemins

have their own posts, but others are in this gallery.

 

Note.

  1. For most of the journey, I was sitting in the top deck of the trains.
  2. There was nearly a serious incident in the ICE. The lobby has no grab handles and a guy about my age fell over as the train lurched. Even a much younger man didn’t like it. Health and Safety would have changed the design in the UK.
  3. I particularly liked the toilet lock at Aachen. You just put fifty cents in the slot and opened the door in the normal way. It wouldn’t have hindered anybody, who could walk through a normal door.
  4. Except for the Wuppertal to Cologne section on the ICE, it wasn’t crowded.It was a journey I’d recommend, if you have plenty of time to catch a Eurostar out of Brussels.

It was a journey I’d recommend, if you have plenty of time to catch a Eurostar out of Brussels, as Colgne, Aachen and Liege are all places to get a drink and a snack.

 

 

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

London To Kassel

When I left the UK, my aims were to travel to Kassel, Karlsruhe and Strasbourg and a few other cities, I’d not visited before as a tourist.

I was also intending to see and ride on some of the tram-trains that seem to be used in the area.

I started my journey on a 73 bus and finished it in a taxi. More on why I used a dreaded taxi later.

These pictures tell the story.

In some ways it was an easy but boring journey, which because of the extremely dull weather past Liege there wasn’t much to see.

Personally, I can’t wait for a direct London to Frankfurt train, which would make trips like this so much easier.

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Famous Belgian

Read this article on the BBC web site, entitled Adrian Carton de Wiart: The unkillable soldier. His Wikipedia article says this.

He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War; was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a POW camp; and bit off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. Describing his experiences in World War I, he wrote, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”

He eventually died peacefully at 83.

 

 

January 6, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Slow High Speed Rail

The Dutch and the Belgians have abandoned their new Fyra high-speed trains and are replacing them with coaches hauled by TRAXX locomotives as is reported here.

The Fyra was supposed to run at 250 kph, but they have proved to be very unreliable.  On the other hand the TRAXX-hauled coaches  are probably limited to about 200 kph. So they will have a high-speed line called HSL-Zuid, which has been designed for up to 300 kph, with trains on it running at well below that speed.

It’s a bit like putting the the Class 90s and the Mk 3 coaches you get between London and Norwich, on the East or West Coast Main Line. Some of course, used to work there twenty years ago, so they are a bit clapped, but they are generally more reliable than Fyra, which has been nicknamed the ALDI-trein

In fact here’s an idea!

I’m sure we’ve got some old Class 90s and a few rakes of coaches, we could lend to the Dutch and the Belgians. But there are various problems in that Continental trains are bigger than ours and I don’t think they’d fit the platforms.  They also wouldn’t be able to work all the high-speed line as some parts and the rest of the Netherlands doesn’t use 25kV like the UK and most of Europe.

It would appear the Dutch and the Belgians, with the help of a basket case of an Italian train maker, have dug themselves an enormous hole.  Now they are going to get themselves out of trouble, using an engine built in Germany by a Canadian company.

I wonder how many civil servants and politicians have been fired because of this fiasco?

We may have done a few things wrong with the trains in the last fifty or so years, but we’ve never created anything as bad as this!

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

A Train Builder With Form

I have been following the farce of the Fyra trains between Brussels and Amsterdam with interest. Modern Railways this month, gives a very full account of the problems and the big row between the Dutch and the Belgians and the Italian company; AnsaldoBreda who built the V250 trains. These trains were incidentally called Albatross by the makers.

I’ve just been reading about AnsaldoBreda on Wikipedia. It says this about the problems the company has had with an order for IC4 trains for Denmark.

Delivery of 83 IC4 trainsets for the Danish State Railways DSB was originally planned for 2003-2006. As of March 2013, 22 trainsets have still not been delivered,[52] On 2 July 2012, the DSB announced that the Transportation Authority had approved Denmark’s railway operator to put back into operation the fleet of 37 IC4s which had been withdrawn from service in November 2011. In December 2011, it was reported that one of the missing IC4 trainsets planned for delivery in Denmark was found in Libya. Reportedly, AnsaldoBreda and then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gave Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi the trainset as a present on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Gaddafi’s revolution in 2009.

I suppose now, it doesn’t work, as there is sand in the bogies!

No wonder the Dutch and the Belgians bought a load of dud trains, that go bunga bunga!

Incidentally, I  was led to look up AnsaldoBreda by looking at the progress of the Midland Metro extension to Birmingham New Street station.  I found that the same Italian company had sold a load of dodgy trams to the Brummies. The details are here.

June 28, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Impressive Structures At Liege Station

In this home run from Stockholm, I didn’t see any good modern station architecture, until I got to Liege station.

Impressive Structures At Liege Station

Impressive Structures At Liege Station

So why can’t the Swedes, Danes and Germans, do what the Belgians obviously can?

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Belgians Give Up On Fyra

The Belgian government has pulled out of the Fyra project to run high speed trains between Brussels and Amsterdam.  It’s reported here.

This sorry story has a lot of lessons for governments, who try to implement large projects.

Building railway lines and in particular high-speed lines is not difficult, except for the odd local political and environmental problems, as HS1 found in Kent and HS2 is now finding. But the actual line generally works well from an engineering perspective, with the possible exception of the Wenzhou crash in China, where signalling may have been at fault. None of the high speed train crashes in this country, were caused by engineering problems on new lines.

The main problems with Fyra are all about using new unproven trains. No sensible project manager would ever use unproven technology at the heart of a new project. You could argue, that Boeing used an unproven battery system on the Dreamliner.  But look what happened there!

The other major problem with Fyra  is that they discontinued the traditional services between towns like The Hague and Brussels, thus alienating a lot of their target market.

So when you do a large project, make sure that it fits the aspirations of your customers.

If we look at HS2 to Birmingham, the technology to be used to build the line will be very much proven, as hopefully will be the trains, which will probably be derived from something that is working well in the UK or Europe.

The line too, will be an addition to the current services between the two cities.  This in itself removes a lot of risk from this line, as say there is a problem that cuts capacity on HS2, you don’t have only one basket for your eggs. I also believe the competition from such as Chiltern and Virgin trains and their successors, will make sure that HS2 is competitive and reliable. Those two services, will also act as valuable feeder services to HS2, as say you live in Banbury and want to go to Leeds, you’d hop to Moor Street station in Birmingham and then take HS2 to Leeds, when that section of the line is completed.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | News, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment