Most of us have taken a train before. Most of us on normal trains and possibly also on a special train here and there as a tourist. Yet, in Europe, many rely on the use of fast trains. One of the most famous one is the Thalys from Amsterdam to Paris and the Eurostar from London to Paris. It takes a few hours, yet the combination of comfort and locations make this option more interesting then grabbing the plane.
As a business solution, the Thalys has a few setbacks (it seems to be around the pricing mostly) and as such an alternative fast train was needed between Amsterdam and Brussels. As this track, for business reasons requires a few extra stops the Thalys was not regarded as a solution (they use the same tracks). The Dutch and Belgium delegation looked for an alternative and the Italian Fyra from AnselmoBreda was chosen.
So why the cost?
The entire track could not be used, so additional tracks were required. This little caper costed the taxpayers 7 billion and was delivered one year early. Many would ask why this is an issue. Well, on an annual 3% interest, a 7 billion track one year early will gain an additional 210 million euro in interest cost. Yes, questions should be asked! Now follow this up with the trains not working, well over 50% cancelled and additional flaws and security issues has delayed this option and is now out of commission as these weak spots are added and added. A parliamentary commission is now arranged to look at these flaws.
The Dutch have a record of achievement in trains, and even though they have been running intercity trains for decades, none of them were designed for the 250Km speeds (neither is Fyra as now seems the case). Why this need for speed? Let us not forget that the distance between Amsterdam and Brussels is only 175Km. With the additional stops made, other options could be implemented; some of them would actually work and not require billions in additional tracks.
For example there is the Swedish X-2000 train (now called the SJ 2000). The train can get up to 276Km/Hr, yet is implemented to go no faster than 210Km/hr. The reason for this is that the Swedish signal system was not designed for trains with higher speeds. An issue that is not in play with the Dutch High Speed lines. Another option was the French Thalys already in use for Amsterdam – Paris. Was it such a leap to order a few more for the Amsterdam – Brussels track? There are additional thoughts. Several nations have had their share of successes. Germany (a nation the Dutch want to do business with) has its options and so does the UK, Denmark, Sweden, China and Japan (more options exist). So why choose the Italian solution? There is the Finnish Allegro, which was built by the French. So we see several operating solutions that have proven themselves. Again the question of choice remains, why Italy?
Well, in honesty, AnsalmoBreda does have a track record. There is the Bombardier Zefiro and a few other options with speed options of 250 and 300Km/hr. So it was not a far-fetched solution at first. So why is it such a failure? That is the question that will haunt Dutch Parliament for months to come. It will also have consequences for both AnselmoBreda and Italy itself too. If a solution is not found, in addition to the upcoming bankruptcy of AnselmoBreda, we will see additional consequences for Italy as a branch of implemented technology will have no option to survive in regards service and maintenance in addition to the costs of hundreds of millions in trains. Trains, in such a condition, that the fyra has been regarded by both Belgium and Dutch experts as utterly non saveable.
Is that true?
The blame game has started in full today and as such fingers are pointed at one another. The Italians mentioned too much speeding in regards to snowy conditions. This is interesting as the Thalys seems to have no real issues with that. In addition the Swedish trains seem to roll along with rails covered in snow almost 40% of the time. The Belgium and Dutch report are damning to a degree not often seen. If accepted as true then it will be years to repair, redesign and implement changes to the current train. Why not exchange these trains for the Bombardier Zefiro?
I am not judging AnselmoBreda as such. I am however wondering how all this ‘poohaa’ can be condoned to offer a train service that is only up to 17 minutes faster. Let us reiterate that! They spend billions to get somewhere up to 17 minutes faster. Time most will waste on coffee, chats and so on. That would be an optimised time; not taking into account the stops and so on, in the end 15 minutes might be saved. Any business that seems to be in that kind of savings should move towards video conferencing is my idea!
I know, there will be loads of issues that cannot be resolved through video, and I will grant that, but the issue of losing up to 17 minutes is a joke! Especially considering the time people waste EVERY DAY! If we compare this to current Dutch materials, the time difference does become 22 minutes. That is current rolling, proven and active materials. This is a solution that would not have required the high speed track solution (and one that has proven to be quite comfortable). From that we can come to the question “Who has been buttering the bread of these deciding politicians?”
Consider that 7 Billion could have done heaps for Dutch housing, Business and employment rates. I would wonder what other spending were this overly enthusiastic. It seems that some took the Dutch taxpayer for a ride (and then some).
From what I see at present a choice of investment was made which was debatable to begin with and not all blame will/should fall with AnselmoBreda.