Tue Jan 29th, 2013 at 06:58:19 AM EST
[The Hoist: featuring an item or items from today's Newsroom]
‘Flop train’: EU’s high-speed rail ambitions hit a setback | EurActiv
The EU’s top transport official says the troubled launch of a now-suspended high-speed rail service between Brussels and Amsterdam - christened the ‘flop train’ by angry passengers - is “not our problem” despite years of efforts to encourage such premium transnational rail service.
Dutch and Belgian lawmakers were due to hold a hearing today (28 January) in Brussels on technical problems with the Italian-built train sets, some of which broke down because of snow and ice on the busy 175-kilometre corridor.
Siim Kallas, the European Commission vice president in charge of transport, told journalists that the suspension of the service was not an issue for the Commission since it involves technical issues between the two rail companies and their equipment supplier.
“It’s not our problem,” Kallas said on Thursday (24 January), a week after the Fyra rail service was suspended.
“On this high-speed network, we have solved very many problems of interoperability already,” Kallas said. “But this happens. As the railway manufacturers say, and the airplane manufacturers say, equipment has become so complicated so that until you really run a machine that is free of all difficulties, it sometimes takes time.”
Libor Lochman, executive director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies, also said the problems with Fyra were technical matters outside the Commission's mandate.
Still, the Commission has encouraged transnational, high-speed corridors such as the Fyra and the opening of rail services to competition through a series of railway packages dating to 2001.
The Commission is expected to present its Fourth Railway Package this week aimed at improving the interoperability of passenger and cargo services across the EU.
The Fyra, the would-be high-speed train connection from Amsterdam to Brussels, was originally scheduled to be ready by April 2007. Problems began from the start. By 2007 the railway (HSL-Zuid) wasn't ready for ERTMS and opening got postponed year after year - a rather hopeless story all by itself.
But while the Thalys has seen little to no problems zipping from Paris to Amsterdam at nearly 300 km/hr, the Dutch operator HSA remains plagued with problems. Today it's the trains causing all the drama. Delivery of the trains, built by Italian train maker AnsaldoBreda, has been delayed for years. The Dutch operator opened the line in 2009 nonetheless - though there was very little high-speed about the Bombardier TRAXX locomotives pulling painted-over coaches, and a far cry from the slick design of AnsaldoBreda's V250s.
The first V250 was launched tentatively past summer and went officially in commercial operation only December 2012 - 5 and half years behind the official launch date.
Yet the problems have never stopped since. Despite having undergone years of heavy testing, the V250 trains were immediately beset with delays and fallout. The Dutch winter weather broke the camel's back - Belgian operator NMBS forbade the trains entering Belgian territory and the lines have been suspended since. Dutch train operator NS has been pointing fingers at AnsaldoBreda, AnsaldoBreda has been scoffing back that NS should've wiped the snow from the trains during the night. And so forth.
So while it may be a fit between companies and supplier, and it might not be the Commissioner's 'problem', one would hardly chalk the story of Fyra as a positive example for European high-speed rail.