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European nights

by DoDo Tue Dec 21st, 2010 at 03:02:55 PM EST

Last week, I was in Brussels on business. I had absolutely no time for sight-seeing, so what follows is some light train blogging made up mostly of night shots, part of it during the Snowpocalypse.

A German Railways (DB) ICE3 arrives in Bruxelles-Midi (will this be the border station if the separatists have their way?):

Morning snow from my hotel window:

There wasn't much snow west of the Meuse; here the landscape races by at around 250 km/h:

Sunset at the Three Countries' Corner (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany):

In Germany, top speed was limited to 200 km/h on high-speed lines (to prevent damage to trackside equipment and train underframes from falling ice), thus all long-distance trains were late. Hence, in Frankfurt, instead of the two-hour stroll to the Christmas market on the Römer I planned, I got on the first train to Munich, after barely enough time to eat a Schnitzelbrötchen in the main station concourse:

Approaching Munich, heavy snowfall commenced outside – it was pretty impressive as it swirled around the train. As for Munich main station, it is now also a terminus for French National Railways' (SNCF) TGV trains from Paris:

Local trains dropped a lot of snow onto the tracks:

However, arriving against the rising Sun in Budapest, the water from the snow melting on the rooftop flowed down the windows (the big freeze arrived a few hours later):

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Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

By the way, for the main station of the capital of both Belgium and the EU, with excellent connections to London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Luxemburg, Paris and beyond, Brussels Central is... pretty dead. Almost all shops and food stands close after 20h, while Munich's main station is buzzling with life even after 23h.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 21st, 2010 at 03:06:16 PM EST
That may have something to do with the fact that downtown Brussels has plenty of all-night stores, so that the station only caters to travelers. In Munich, it's the other way round...
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Dec 21st, 2010 at 03:18:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree, I was in brussels in sept and sure the midi station is a hole, but you can see some nice stuff in 10 mins walk.
by njh on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 12:59:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ooops, forgot to add the last photo, now done.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 21st, 2010 at 03:23:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seeing the title, I thought "Oh noes! DoDo has become a night-clubber! From now on it will be disco-blogging!"

Thank goodness there are trains in this blog!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 21st, 2010 at 03:13:07 PM EST
And I was expecting Scheherazade...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 04:59:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice pics.  When I did Strasbourg to Munich last year we had to switch at Stuttgart and go on a much slower ICE train. (the display rarely got above 110km/hour)  Is there a new route, or does the TGV just chug along the same route?
by njh on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 01:07:20 AM EST
I think this is due to the fact that the DB doesn't like the idea of having competition on the Munich-Stuttgart route.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 01:48:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TGV Est traffic was organised in cooperative times, on the basis of mutual market share sharing: ICEs run from Frankfurt t Paris, and TGVs run from Paris to Stuttgart or Munich. Methinks the reason few TGVs reach Munich is the small market due to the long travel time. Even after the LGV Est Européenne is finished, the magic three-hour distance will only be Paris-Stuttgart.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 03:56:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The TGV chugs along the same route. The <120 km/h section is relatively short, BTW, it is the Geislinger Steige climb between Stuttgart and Ulm, which was the world's first mountain railway in 1850 (though CSX's ex-B&O Mountain Subdivision from 1852 and Austria's Semmering railway from 1854 usually claim the title). The rest of the line is at least 160 km/h.

A high-speed line from Stuttgart to Ulm is long in planning, but as it is connected to the Stuttgart 21 project (the replacement of the current main station and access lines with an underground station and tunnels), the high-speed line is caught up in the S21 controversy. or Stuttgart 21, see the diaries Trainblogging: Stuttgart 21 - Part I and Part II by eopchepoque (and my comments therein) here on ET. Some update on the situation: after the massive protests and the public outcry after police violence, an old politician of the CDU who is also an altermondialist offered to be a mediator. After long talks, he said that the project should be completed but with significant changes, however, he said he doubts that the sides will accept a compromise, which was the case.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 03:40:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ha, I'm behind the news! While S21 is still mired in controversy and DB currently tries to find out how it can re-plant trees in the way rather than fell them, construction of the high-speed line started started on 13 December.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 22nd, 2010 at 04:10:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ATTAC member Geißler had a chance to blow the sick fish out of the water but he wasted his chance by endorsing some mezzo less bad 'compromise'. Canceling the project now was deemed "too expensive". As if continuing the project was any cheaper.

Cost of canceling was estimated 1.4 billion as calculated by former speaker Drexler, some moron with the Bundestag said 2 billion, and lately DB said 3 billion. No matter that only ~200 million have actually been spent so far (including lots of commissions for DB) and those inflated sums include future profits. Rolling back would actually cost 500 million max. How 'expensive' is that in light of 7 billion project cost (~12 billion overall)?

The 3 billion estimate by DB is especially interesting. It's basically the 1.4b plus 1.5b that would have to be invested over the next 40 years. So even DB indirectly admits that S21 is not necessary.

Now we have to wait for the elections and for results of the magical "stress test", a computer simulation of the current plans. Results are not expected till summer. Apparently, Deutsche Bahn wants to do it all by itself and state transport minister Gönner already 'knows' that two extra tracks in the new station won't be required. Yeah, yeah! Like the banks doing their own "stress tests" and guess what: they don't need extra capital.

Now there is heady chatter that "this will change everything", "from now on big projects won't go forward without serious citizen involvement", "democracy improvement" and all that blabla. Sure, but that still doesn't resolve the issue of idiotic projects being selected (or dreamed up) in the first place. "60 alternatives were examined!" say the proponents of S21. Yes, you jokers! 60 alternatives within S21.

Nor does the transient change of attitude resolve the issue of ongoing projects that are definitely going to break our backs.

Hopefully, we will have some BahnLeaks shortly (German).

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Thu Dec 23rd, 2010 at 10:51:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now we have to wait for the elections and for results of the magical "stress test", a computer simulation of the current plans.

For the uninvolved; this is about the capacity of the planned new station and its accesses. The plan foresees the complete closure of the present 15-track terminus (it's a real estate project in disguise after all) and the new construction of an underground 8-track through station. The question is, is that enough? Now as in the case of all too many rail projects, managers will show nice PowerPoint presentations with nice high daily capacities... but traffic doesn't run with the same frequency all day.

Now one can juggle numbers for stress tests, but compare through main stations in Düsseldorf: 16 tracks, Dortmund: 16 tracks (some of those tracks aren't through), Berlin: 6+8 tracks (two levels), Essen: 13 tracks, Duisburg: 12 tracks, Cologne: 11 tracks; even Bremen (which gets less long-distance through traffic) has 9 tracks.

Then there are the tunnels and junctions that are supposed to carry both long-distance and local traffic, but see epochepoque's diaries for details.

(Vienna's in-construction new main station, another real estate project in disguise involving the replacement of terminus stations with a through station, will have 10 tracks.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Dec 23rd, 2010 at 01:19:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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