3 Oct 2013
TRAINS AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT
For some years I used the train to go from Waterloo to Brussels to make my little stroll through the Midi Market.
Now I gave up. I take the bus ! I pity the poor tourists who arrive in Brussels South (midi) and wander around looking for information ! First surprise, all announcements are first done in Flemish (Dutch) which nobody understands besides the few Flemish and the few Dutch. Then the voice croaks the same in French, then in German and then in English. By the time the voice has finished you risk to miss the train.
On the information boards, the cities are sometimes named in Flemish. If you look for Nivelles for example you will have to look for Nijvel and if you have to go to Lille in France you have to know that you have to go to Rijsel, which sounds not at all the same.
The information desk has usually friendly employes, if .... you ask in English. I once asked in French, which platform I have to take to go to Braine l'Alleud, he told me that I have to look for Nederbrakel, which is the name in Flemish. Why do they translate the city names ?? Of course I had never heard of Nederbrakel and when I finally found the platform I had to ask if this was really the train to Braine l'Alleud.
Besides that, if you have the chance to stand on the right platform which is indicated on the information board, for example n°10 the voice suddenly croaks that you have to go to platform 15, so those who understood run over to n°15, steps down, steps up to arrive on platform 15 where a train is waiting but not to the city you want to go but to another one. The train controller doesn't know why, in short he only knows the door of his train. When I had this adventure, I became leader of a troop of sheep as apparently I was the only one who understood at least one of the languages. I also noticed that the loudspeakers badly need to be renewed as the croaking voice could also speak Chinese, so hard it was to understand.
Then we waited. A young mother with a 3 week old baby in a buggy stuck on me because she only spoke Arabic and a little French and felt completely lost. She had to go to Nivelles. The voice said, that the train now starts on platform 11, so we all run from n° 15 to n° 11 steps down, steps up, helping the young mother with her buggy. When we arrived the right train was waiting, indicating Nijvel. But people wanted to go to Nivelles. It took some time before they realized that Nijvel and Nivelles were the same town. The buggy didn't fit in the large door because some intelligent man had decided to put a ramp in the middle of the entrance. So we helped the young mother to lift up the buggy over the ramp and put it down on the other side. Baby didn't bother and continued to sleep.
Finally sitting in the train, after 10 min, the train stopped. No information at all. The ticket controller must have been invisible or locked in the toilet. We waited for half an hour. Through the mouth to mouth telephone we got the message that another train blocked the rails for an unknown reason. Those who were in a hurry became very angry, the others took the opportunity to chat together and laugh.
With nearly an hour late I finally arrived in Waterloo to find a Japanese couple only speaking English, who desperately looked around to find the Waterloo Lion and the battle field. I explained them that there is a little bus going to the city center where the Tourist Information office is. They thanked and waited at the bus stop. Meanwhile I had taken my car and when I drove by I saw them still standing there with two question marks in their eyes. I stopped got out of my car to see on the timetable when the next bus would arrive. And what was written there ..... no buses on Sundays ! I felt ashamed ! The city earns a lot of money with the tourists but the transport and information service at the station is more then lousy. Finally I put their belongings in my trunk, loaded both of them and drove them to the tourist office.
And this is the reason why the minister of transport always claims : "Take the public transport "! He probably had never taken a train !
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