Before I left on Thursday, I wrote Off To The Hague Today and started the post like this.
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?
It certainly doesn’t get any better.
Arriving in Brussels, the hourly train to Antwerp and The Hague left in half an hour, so I thought if I could get a ticket to The Hague, I might go direct.
So I tried a machine. But these only sell tickets to Belgium.
The queues were horrendous, so I got on the train to Antwerp as my Any Belgium Ticket would get me there!
At Antwerp, I took half an hour to buy a ticket and after a lunch of nuts and the worst coffee, I’ve ever had, I caught the next train to Den Haag HS, where I changed for Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie.
Express train it is not! On this main InterCity route, some of it has a speed limit of just 100 kph. Even London to Ipswich is a 160 kph line.
Coming back, there were a few delays and it took exactly four hours from the time I got on the InterCity train at Den Haag HS before I was on my on-time Eurostar leaving Brussels. Admittedly, forty-five minutes of so was checking-in and waiting for the Eurostar.
Incidentally, Den Haag to Brussels in 172.9 km. and can be driven in two hours.
London to Birmingham is actually slightly further and Virgin does it around 85 minutes.
If that isn’t a disgrace, I’m a Dutchman!
What wasn’t a disgrace was the food on Eurostar!
I’d forgot to ask for a gluten-free meal, but I was assured the main course was gluten-free. I’m pretty certain it was and it was also delicious.
So at least the last part of the journey went well and we arrived in St. Pancras on time!
Passenger services through the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994, with services to and from St. Pancras starting in November 2007.
The new Class 374 trains to start a service to Amsterdam and Cologne are now sitting in sidings, with services supposed to start at the end of 2016.
Judging by the history of the development of services to places other than London, Brussels and Paris, I suspect that date will slip to somewhere about 2026 or even 2036.
The biggest problem seems to be the multiplicity of different electrical systems between France, Germany and The Netherlands. At least we chose our 25kVAC overhead system is the same as the French and has been since at least the 1960s.
I despair, that I’ll ever take a High Speed train direct to Rotterdam and then take a local train to The Hague.
No wonder the EU is such a mess, if the UK, Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands can’t agree on something purely technical like a connecting railway.
This is the station from where I left The Hague
Over the years, I have used it, Den Haag HS station has been cleaned up, but in some ways it is a rather soulless place, except for some of the old details.
I had bought my ticket earlier, but at least there was a machine at the station, where I could get a ticket to Brussels.
Unlike at Brussels, where there were no machines selling tickets to The Netherlands that I could find.
I was looking at Eurostar, as I want to go to Berlin at some time to see the new museum.
When I went to The Netherlands last time on the train, I had to wait for about an hour in Brussels to buy a ticket to get to Den Haag, as it was impossible to buy one before I left London. Now though you can buy a ticket from London to any Dutch station. All you have to do is get to Brussels Midi and then take a Dutch domestic service within 24 hours! The rules for return, are that you can take any Dutch domestic service that arrives within 24 hours of your Eurostar departure.
That sounds like a really sensible way of travelling. You could catch the next train to say Rotterdam and save time or you could catch a morning train to Brussels, have a look round the city and perhaps have a good lunch as I did in the spring and then take an evening train across the border.
It would seem to be cheaper too, as my ticket last time to Den Haag from Brussels and back would have cost 60 Euros in Standard Class. Looking today and going in a couple of weeks, it looks like I can do the whole journey both ways for about £120 or less. That price was for next week, so I suspect, you could beat that if you booked further in advance.
Incidentally going by Thalys to say Amsterdam from Brussels on the same dates, doesn’t have a very good choice of trains and costs twice the price! I suspect you might save a few minutes on the journey, but because of the connections, you would probably have to leave London an hour or so later. That is not my style, as I’ve always been one for an early start! I always think that you can get a good lunch in Brusssels anyway. Or you could visit the falcons in the cathedral.
It all sounds to be a good deal to me! But one that won’t be too good to be true!
Here are a few pictures of Den Haag HS station.
Note the double-deck trains.
Outside of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Den Haag is this sculpture.
Is it a V-2 exploding on takeoff?
Because it is in the area that was devastated by RAF bombing, as they tried to stop the missiles.
If you cycle towards Scheveningen past the prison and the barracks, there is a building on the eastern side of the road, that looks like a station. We see old stations all over the UK that have been converted into houses and although it’s a different style, it has the same aura.
When I got back I looked it up and found that there used to be a railway that ran from the main line from Den Haag to Amsterdam, through Wassenaar to a station by the beach at Scheveningen. As I had thought, the railway had run where the road is now.
It was the site with the map that told me the dark secret, that few know about. Den Haag was the launching point for all of the V-2 rockets that the Nazis sent towards London. A lot were fired from a beautiful estate called Duindigt, near the racecourse. It ended up being totally destroyed by Allied bombing and V-2’s that exploded on takeoff.
Nearly three thousand died in 1944, in London due to these weapons. But not as many as about 20,000 concentration camp inmates, who died making the weapons. Even the Dutch suffered greatly, as the weapons misfired and hit local targets, the Nazis executed anybody for the most trivial of reasons and the Allies destroyed parts of Den Haag by mistake as they tried to stop the launching of the rockets.
War is never the simple business it is made out to be.
You may not have noticed, but I don’t like places being given two names. That is why this post is called Den Haag and not The Hague.
These are some pictures that I took over the weekend.
I took this picture of a parakeet at a bird feeder in the garden of the house where I stayed in Den Haag.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d got the camera sorted, the rose-ringed parakeet had flown. That’s what birds do! They fly.
But I did get this picture of several parakeets in the garden.
There is quite a few references to parakeets in Den Haag on the Internet. They’ve been in Holland for some time.