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Monday, February 15, 2010

Brussels train crash: it was bound to happen

Some terrible news: unconfirmed reports say that at least 20 people have been killed in a head-on collision of two commuter trains near Brussels. Here’s my First Post piece on why this was an accident waiting to happen.

A visit to the wonderfully retro Brussels Central station is a must for admirers of the work of the great architect Victor Hortha. And as the hub for the densest railway network in the European Union - Belgium has a staggering 3,454km of track - it's also a paradise for train spotters.

Researching a magazine article, I once spent 20 minutes there noting the arrival of trains on several different platforms. Out of a total of more than 30 trains, some of them international, all except one were on time, and that one was just 90 seconds late. Eat your heart out, Richard Branson.

Compared to travelling on Britain's unreliable and ludicrously expensive privatised railways, travelling by rail in Belgium is a positive delight. Not only are trains more punctual and more comfortable, but fares, based on distance-based pricing, are easy to understand and considerably cheaper than in the UK. And trains are incredibly frequent: on average they leave every half an hour between Belgian cities.

But having such a dense railway network also has a downside.

You can read the rest of the article here:

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