Saturday, 4 July 2015

St Pancras to Waterloo : A Week's Holiday (1)

Congratulations to Heather Watson ...
... (UK) who oh so nearly defeated Serena Williams yesterday. A heart in mouth match. An astounding display of tennis.
Back to the blog.

And it Wasn't Cheap!
Northampton correspondent Alan is a batchelor boy (boy?) and teased fbb by emailing that he was going away for a week and a bit "from St Pancras to Waterloo". But we tend to forget which Waterloo.
Definitely the most visually stunning of all Waterloo attractions is the Butte du Lion just outside the village. You can take a memorable climb up the 100-meter high mound. Built by local women in a bucket bridgade with soil taken from the battlefield, the monument is topped by a 28-ton concrete lion, hence the name 'Butte du Lion' or 'Hill of the Lion'.

Yes, it's that Waterloo of battle bicentenary fame. The trip was with Ffestiniog Travel ...
... back in June. Because the railway heritage of Belgium is less well known than the favourite Switzeland, fbb hopes his readers will be interested in a brief review of the intinerary.
Kick off was on Saturday 13th June, last.

Although not in the official schedule, Alan was impressed with the Ghent bus station cleaning team ...
... contrasting it with his local shelter in Northampton.
Alan does ask whether "la santé et la sécurité" applies in Belgique. Google translate doesn't do Flemish, but Dutch "gezondheid en veiligheid" will be a good approximation!

De Kusttram is het ideale vervoermiddel aan de kust. U heeft geen last van files of parkeerproblemen en u kunt op een voordelige en leuke manier attracties, winkels, enz. vlot bereiken. In de zomer rijdt er elke 10 minuten een Kusttram, in de winter elke 20 minuten en in het voor- en naseizoen alsook in de krokus- en kerstvakantie elk kwartier.
How is your Flemish?

More correctly described as a pre-metro ...
The Antwerp Premetro is a network consisting of lines 2, 3, 5, 6, 9 and 15 of the Antwerp Tram system. It is a metre gauge system, which runs underground in the city centre and further out on surface lines, which are separated from motor vehicle traffic. It was intended eventually to evolve into a full metro, similar to the Brussels Metro.

BUT,  there's a sad public transport tale to be told here; several sections have been built but never opened. 
Apparently the money ran out and the predictions of passenger numbers were wildly optimistic.

This is Waterloo Station but in Charleroi where the 1815 battle wasn't. There's a sad public transport tale to be told here ...
... with lines part completed then abandonned.
Apparently the money ran out and the predictions of passenger numbers were wildly optimistic. Those words seem strangely familiar!

So European transport projects are not always superior to the UK. What is left is more of a tram system with metro-style underground bits. At least in the UK, projects don't even get started**.

The elecrification schemes for the Midland Main Line and TransPennine routes by Network Rail have officially been “paused”, the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has announced, in order for work on the over-budget and delayed Great Western Main Line electrification to be completed.“Electrification of the Great Western Line is a top priority and I want Notwork Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right” said McLoughlin.
London Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy will also join NR as Chairman, replacing Professor Richard Parry-Jones, who will stand down at the end of a three-year term in July.

Notwork Rail seem to be living up to their name with cost overruns and horrific delays. Now wasn't there once a company called Railtrack which was obliterated because of its incompetence; and replaced with something that would be much better? Plus ça change!

Tomorrow we continue to intrude on Alan's tour and pose the question, "Falkirk Wheel, so what?"

 ** OK, fbb does know about London's Northern Line extensions that were never completed or opened.
 Next Belgian travel blog : Sunday 5th July 


  1. Flemish is extremely close to Dutch, so here's a translation of the untranslated.

    The coastal tram is the ideal means of transport to the coast. You do not suffer from traffic and parking problems and you can get an inexpensive and fun way to attractions, shopping, etc. easy reach. In summer, a coastal tram service runs every 10 minutes, every 20 minutes in winter and in spring and autumn and in the spring and Christmas holidays each quarter.

  2. Certainly the Charleroi tunnels were the result of what could loosely be described as the Belgian eqivalent to the Barnett formula. Spending in Flanders had to be broadly matched with spending in Wallonia. - and it is entirely possible that spending in both was related to the Brussels Capital Region.

    There is some limited justification for tunnels in Antwerp, where the historic centre has narrow streets, some of which could only ever accommodate single-track tram lines.

    But in Charleroi, it was only ever a project for prestige, which resulted in decimation of the existing surface tramways. The tunnel to the west of city used by the M1/M2 reaches the surface in the middle of fields, complete with nearby cows serenely grazing,

    Belgium will be a really nice country once they finish building it...