A rail postcard from Liège

liege-postcard

Dear Siim,

I’m writing to you today from Liège. In one way this is a surprise, in that I am not supposed to be in Liège, but judging from experience I suppose it was inevitable I was going to have to write to you from here at some point.

I was booked on the 1425 DB ICE17 service from Bruxelles-Midi to Köln Hbf, but first we were told the train would start from Bruxelles-Nord instead of Midi. When fellow passengers and I arrived at Nord it turned out the ICE train would only start in Liège-Guillemins. I realised this was happening, and jumped on the first Belgian IC train heading east, but SNCB had not thought to tell the rest of the ICE passengers this, while DB on Twitter (@DB_bahn) could tell me that the ICE train had a problem, but not where the train itself was, nor the scale of the delay. So I am sat writing to you while waiting for further passengers to arrive here in Liège, when they could all have been here 30 minutes ago if DB and SNCB had talked to each other.

The problem Siim is that this line – the high speed section between Hergenrath and Leuven, via Liège, and the improved sections between Düren and Köln, and Leuven and Brussels, have been built with EU funds. But the service that runs here is awful. DB ICEs essentially compete against Thalys trains, and if something happens to the ICE on the Belgian side, or the Thalys on the German side, as a traveller you have no way of knowing what is going on. The ICEs here are also regularly beset by technical problems due to an incompatibility between the Siemens trains and the Belgian signalling system, while the Infrabel also stops the ICEs running to their 300km/h top speed.

Do you realise, Siim, that it’s incidents like these that make people want to fly? As a passenger I do not give a damn about what the reasons are. I understand that things go wrong, but I should be entitled to reasonable information about what is happening – regardless of who runs the service – and that all the railway firms collaborate to help get me to my destination as fast as possible. Today that lack of collaboration alone is going to cause me a further hour of delay to my journey.

What are you doing about these sorts of things?

Jon

NOTE: this is the latest in my series of rail postcards to the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas. Previous postcards have been sent from Hendaye and Göteborg.

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1 comment

  1. kjskljglka

    Interesting. I guess I should have written a letter to Siim myself a couple of weeks ago. On the last day of January, I took X2000 train 507 from Stockholm to Copenhagen, or rather was meant to. In Boxholm, a train from a competing train company missed a red sign (http://www.trafikverket.se/Foretag/Trafikera-och-transportera/Trafikera-jarnvag/Sakerhet/Obehorig-stoppsignalpassage-OSPA/). The result was that no trains could pass within two hours because the other train needed to change driver and because people had to inspect the rails. Because of this, and two other problems, the train was running very late, and was therefore cancelled at Malmö C. Instead, I had to change to an Öresund train, and since it was very late, the trains between Malmö and Copenhagen were only running once an hour. All in all, I arrived to Copenhagen H at 02:08 instead of 22:32. It is lucky that I had planned for a connection time of 12 hours in Copenhagen, but I didn’t get enough sleep at my hotel that night.

    I guess one of these could be the image for my postcard:
    http://imgur.com/ElsjNDr.jpg
    http://imgur.com/r5tSENi.jpg
    Note that the train is too long for this short platform: the last door is outside the platform. This station is normally only served by local trains.