Belgian Line News 1995

The following information is taken from different issues of the Branch Line News International for 1995, quoted in the text as BLN.
03][GB, FR, BE] Eurostar Discovery: (BLN 742.0339) Four Eurostars (two Paris, two Bruxelles) are now scheduled to run each way daily including Saturdays and Sundays. Eurotunnel had previously required Saturday and Sunday-morning possessions for continuing testing work ordered by the intergovernmental safety authorities, but paths became available and a second edition of the Eurostar timetable appeared with effect from the start date of public service on 14 November 1994. Perhaps the first passenger working from Waterloo to Haute Picardie was on Tuesday 29 November, when the 0823 London - Paris train ran wrong- line through the tunnel as far as the British crossover, then reverted to the normal route before becoming a complete failure on the up running line at TGV-Haute Picardie station. The set shunted to the down platform loop via an emergency crossover and passengers were detrained. A replacement Eurostar was fetched from Paris, arriving there 122 minutes late.

024][GB, FR, BE] Eurostar: From next Monday, 23 January 1995, Eurostar service will step up from two to four London - Paris trains each way daily, with a fifth working each way on Friday and Sunday evenings. London - Brussel/Bruxelles will have three instead of two trains each way daily, two of the three making calls at Lille-Europe. By about the end of 1995, London - Paris Eurostars should be running approximately hourly. In their first six weeks, the London - Paris trains have been running 85% full during the week, and nearly 100% full on Friday and Sunday evenings, hence the extra weekend trains now being deployed. British ticket sales have been 50% of the total, against SNCF's 35% and SNCB/NMBS' 15%.

085][FR, BE] Mont St.Martin SNCF - Athus SNCB: (Ball 17B1) The former electrified freight line, closed on 26 September 1993 to enable construction of the new Athus avoiding line (BLN 741.0325), was formally abandoned (déclassé) on 11 July 1994, thus thwarting local aspirations that it might be restored (BLN 735.0176). (L'Echo du Rail, #135, August 1994)

0116][BE] Vennbahn: (BLN 747 supplement) A landslip just south of Kalterherberg blocked the line, forcing a northbound ADL tour train on 4 March 1995 to halt suddenly, and retreat.

0128][FR, BE, NL, DE] Paris - Bruxelles - Köln / Amsterdam: The marketing name for the high-speed international trains is to be Thalys, a made-up word said to have been selected pour son évocation de la vitesse, du confort et de la modernité. Initially, in 1996, SNCF TGV-Réseau units, designated PBA for Paris-Bruxelles-Amsterdam, are to be used, these being tricourant sets able to work on SNCF and NS 1500V dc, SNCB/NMBS 3000V dc and SNCF 25kV 50Hz. In 1997, a new build of international TGV PBKA units is to be introduced, which will be quadricourant sets, able to work to Köln on DB's 15kV 16²/3Hz. The completion date for the Thalys platforms, numbers 3 to 6, at Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid appears to have slipped to June 1995. (SNCF/SNCB press release, 17 January 1995)

0133][BE] Train + bike rental in Belgium: From April 1995 the bikes for rental at NMBS/SNCB stations are all to have seven gears, and in the Ardennes region mountain bikes will be available. Combined train + bike tickets are on offer, and return of a rental bike will be possible at many stations. (European Railway News, March 1995)

0145][BE] Eurostar and Thalys routes in Belgium: (BLN 751.0128) Belgium's TGV routes as proposed at October 1994 are shown superimposed on a 1:250,000-scale plan (carte du tracé) available, together with an explanatory booklet, from SNCB Info, TGV-STAR 21, BP153, B-1060 Bruxelles 31, Belgium. On the Eurostar and Thalys routes linking London, Paris, Brussel, Köln and Amsterdam, about 160km of Belgium's 305km would be new construction, the remainder being existing lines upgraded. Short-sighted Government reluctance to authorise the investment could however delay the route to Germany until 2004, and the route to the Netherlands until 2005 - a scenario not unfamiliar to Eurostar travellers, trundling through Kent slowly enough to wave to the crossing-keeper near Ashford............... Civil-engineering trains working on the first section of the TGV-Belge line are based at St.Druon near Antoing but, because the Arbre viaduct in the middle of the new line cannot yet be used, a secondary base (Base du Coucou) is being set up with sidings between the converging tracks of the existing Ligne 94 and the new TGV line 6km south-east of Ath. The section from the French frontier to Antoing should open in May 1996, but Antoing - Ath may take until September 1997 or even June 1998. A detailed track plan of the new layout between Bruxelles and Lembeek appeared in Modern Railways in January 1995. The works to increase line capacity for Eurostar and Thalys between Halle and Bruxelles Midi have progressed to the stage where in early March 1995 the new platforms were in use on the new lines through Halle (which are on the west side, the westernmost now being numbered 1) while the original main-line platforms were out of use. At the same time, the tracks between Forest Midi and Bruxelles Midi which run past Klein Eiland to the west of the carriage yards (BLN 739.0278; Ball 10B1; SNCB Ligne 96A) were temporarily singled between Forest Midi and Klein Eiland, to allow excavations under the other track. A London-bound Eurostar departed this way, and it may be their normal route to and from the Eurostar platforms (1 and 2) at Bruxelles Midi. Certainly, trains which are booked to or from the low-numbered platforms at Midi do normally use Ligne 96A, to avoid conflicts at the south end station throat. Does the track layout in fact allow Eurostars to access the main route (Ligne 96) at the south throat?

0146][BE] Charleroi - Anderlues: (BLN 729.085, 738.0255; Ball 8B1, not shown) At the western end beyond Pétria the remnant of the Vicinal metre-gauge interurban tramway operates from Charleroi as route 89 via the depot to Anderlues Jonction, and as route 90 via the short direct line to Anderlues Monument. Street track between Jonction and Monument is being realigned and from May or June 1995 route 89 trams are to run via the depot and Jonction to Monument. (Tramfare; Blickpunkt Strassenbahn)

0147][BE] SNCB Ligne 163 Libramont - Bastogne: (BLN 716.09; Ball 17B3) In March 1995 the timetables at Bertrix gave no indication that service on Ligne 163, whose passenger trains were suspended in May 1993, would be by bus. The substitute bus conveyed six passengers, and an SNCB guard who duly checked tickets. The large station at Bastogne Sud is still open though without trains, and unsurprisingly the tracks are very rusty. Bastogne Nord is derelict, and the tracks northward to Gouvy are lifted. Protest posters in the town included one comparing the Bastogne of 1944, cut off from the rest of the world by the encircling Nazis, and of 1994, cut off by the SNCB.

0177][BE] Lijn 73 Deinze - Lichtervelde - De Panne: (BLN 735.0172; Ball 7A2) The splendidly ecclesiastical exterior of Veurne station and the well-preserved former Vicinal station building immediately outside Diksmuide NMBS station are both worth a look.

0178][BE] Oostende to lose its long-haul trains: (Ball 7A3) As the arrival port of classic rail-sea-rail passengers from Great Britain, Oostende has long had a selection of international trains, but with Eurostars now running from London, the long-distance services south and east are being recast to start and terminate at Brussel Zuid/Bruxelles Midi. Oostende will lose its train to Basel at the end of May 1995, to Wien at the beginning of September, and to Berlin and Moskva at the end of September 1995. The Oostende - Köln route, an integral part of the Belgian IC network, continues. (The Bulletin, Brussels, 30 March 1995)

0271][FR, BE] Paris - Bruxelles TGV: (BLN 752.0145; Ball 7A1-8A2) From 23 January 1995 until June 1996 Paris - Bruxelles trains run via the TGV-Nord Europe line, reversing in Lille-Europe rather than Lille- Flandres, and then proceed, on the same route as Eurostars, via Lille-Fives, Baisieux SNCF, Froyennes SNCB, Tournai, Ath and Halle to Bruxelles. From June 1996 Paris - Bruxelles TGVs are no longer to reverse in Lille. Together with London - Bruxelles Eurostars they should begin to use the first part of the TGV-Belge line from triangle de Fretin, near Lille, to raccordement d'Antoing, just south-east of Tournai, thence via Mons and Braine-le-Comte to Halle and Bruxelles. The next part of the high-speed line, direct from Antoing to Halle, should be available in 1998. (La Vie du Rail, #2480)

0272][FR] Longuyon: (Ball 17B1) According to a signalman at Longuyon, the west-to-north chord has been out of regular use for some time, and is to be removed in September 1995. It last saw a passenger train, a pilgrimage special from Belgium, in about 1991, and was most recently used for works trains in connection with relaying at Montmédy in January 1995.

0370][BE] Charleroi - Anderlues: (BLN 738.0255; 752.0146; Ball 8B1 not shown) On 6 August 1995 trams were continuing to run on both routes in Anderlues, route 89 terminating at Anderlues Jonction, next to the depot, and route 90 running direct to Anderlues Monument terminating just short of the crossroads there. The street between Jonction and Monument was totally blocked to through road traffic while the single metre-gauge tram-track, including a passing-loop midway, was in the course of being completely relaid down the middle of the street, inset in brand-new brick paving. Some weeks' work appeared to remain before it would be possible to run all the trams via Jonction to Monument and close the direct section. Halfway down the blocked street the trackless former railway station building is now a bar called, logically enough, À l'Ancienne Gare. The museum tram used on summer Sundays in 1994 on the Anderlues - Lobbes - Thuin line was silent in the deserted depot at Anderlues and showed no sign of operating that day. In a prolonged dry spell it was difficult to tell if track at Anderlues towards Lobbes, or between Lobbes and Thuin, had recently been used. In Charleroi itself trams work the Charleroi Sud - Gilly section of the so-called Métro, but with no street running, the route being all either elevated or sub-surface, constructed at great cost but less convenient for passengers. Mysterious tunnels, not yet in use, branch off in two or three places. The empty advertising panels at stations suggest poor ridership figures.

0404][BE] Belgian preservation operations in 1995: Timings for the trains of the Belgische Vrienden van de Stoomlokomotief (BVS) on the Dendermonde - Puurs line (Ball 8A3) appear in the NMBS/SNCB timetable, p.372, and Vennbahn trains over the Eupen - Raeren - Weywertz - Trois Ponts and Eupen - Raeren - Weywertz - Bütgenbach sections (10A2-9B1) are on p.290. No services on the Raeren SNCB - Stolberg (Rheinland) DB line appear. Aggregates traffic continues to use the Mariembourg - Chimay - Momignies - Anor SNCF line (16B3-16A3), worked by SNCB diesel locos to the interchange point with SNCF at Anor, but the Chemin de Fer à Vapeur des Trois Vallées (CFV3V) offer no regular service on it in 1995, as on some weekends in previous years. Given 14 days' notice, they will organise a railcar charter, apparently as far as Chimay only, but no specials on the line are promised for the weekend of the CFV3V steam festival at Mariembourg on 23-24 September. CFV3V trains run between Mariembourg and Treignes (16B3), daily until the end of August, then each weekend until 29 October, and between Dinant SNCB and Givet SNCF (17A3-16B3) each weekend until 17 September, with timings in the SNCB timetable, pp.510 and 528. Not shown in Ball, the isolated Pont d'Erezée - Forge-à-l'Aplez - Dochamps section of metre-gauge former Vicinal line operates Sundays from mid-April to mid-October, and Tuesdays to Sundays during most of July and August, as the Tramway Touristique de l'Aisne (TTA, Dépôt de Blier, rue du TTA, B-6997 Amonines-Erezée, Belgium; telephone +32 41 84 42 97 weekdays or +32 86 47 72 69 weekends and operating days). The section between Forge-à-l'Aplez and Dochamps has one advertised round-trip working, running on Sunday afternoons only and not in poor weather. The final trip to Dochamps has no advertised return, but it must presumably run back to Blier depot, near Pont d'Erezée. Some trains run only if a minimum of six round-trip passengers board at Pont d'Erezée. The TTA is part of the erstwhile SNCV line that reached Manhay, whose former Vicinal station is well preserved alongside the N30 Liège - Bastogne road. Behind it some metre-gauge track survives inside the former sheds or workshops, though not in the part still used by the ex-SNCV buses.

0419][BE] Brussel-Nationaal-Luchthaven/Bruxelles-National-Aéroport: (Ball 10B2; Lijn/Ligne 36c) NMBS/SNCB has let a construction contract, to be completed by the end of 1997, for a new railway to Belgium's main airport using an alignment suitable for incorporation into the planned high-speed line to Antwerpen and the Netherlands border. The new airport platforms are to be at right angles to those on the present dead-end branch, which will close. (Le Soir)

0420][BE] Marbehan - Croix-Rouge: (BLN 716.08; Ball 17B2; Ligne 155) This freight branch off the Namur - Luxembourg line used to extend to Virton, and on to Montmédy in France. Its truncated remnant had been threatened with closure, but is to be extended to serve a water-bottling plant.

0461][BE] Anderlues - Lobbes - Thuin: (Ball 8B1 not shown) The preservation group Association pour la Sauvegarde du Vicinal (ASVi) began in summer 1995 constructing a museum building at Thuin Ouest, which will house their working rolling-stock for the Lobbes - Thuin line, at present kept in the Anderlues Jonction depot along with Charleroi - Anderlues trams. Since the Anderlues - Lobbes track and overhead is expensive for the ASVi to maintain just for the one positioning round-trip on summer Sundays, it seems doubtful if this section will reopen in 1996. An ASVi timetable advertised the museum tram to run out from Anderlues at 13:00 and back at 18:40 on Sundays and holidays from 20 August to 15 October 1995. As reported in BLN 760.0370, it did not run from Anderlues at 13:00 on 6 August. (L'Étincelle, #2/95)

0500][GB, FR, BE] Eurostar PSUL?: According to the platform departure sheets at Bruxelles- Midi/Brussel Zuid on 8 September 1995, a rather unusual extra Eurostar working ran on two days only in the summer timetable, Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 August 1995, the English bank-holiday weekend. Train #9141 was shown as the 14:28 from the Belgian capital to London Victoria. Just a printing error maybe - but it leads one to wonder. Could Victoria handle an inbound Eurostar, fully loaded with some 800 passengers, if there were a sudden dire emergency, perhaps a major incident at Waterloo occurring well after the train had passed Ashford International and was already close to its destination?

0501][BE] Charleroi - Anderlues trams: (Ball 8B1 not shown) Because of the works on the Jonction - Monument road described in BLN 760.0370, the ex-Vicinal trams were still on 31 August 1995 running to both termini in Anderlues, route 89 to Jonction and route 90 direct to Monument. It seems that destination blinds for ‘#90 Anderlues’ do not exist, so the route 90 tram carried ‘La Louvière’ as its destination! Alas, since 28 August 1993 it has no longer made its way there, winding through the fields and villages. The direct line along the main road from Pétria to Anderlues Monument, avoiding Jonction, was closed from August 1993 (BLN 716.010) until brought back into use in 1995 (BLN 752.0146), presumably until the road-works are complete. It seems, notwithstanding the ASVi timetable quoted in BLN 765.0461, that the Anderlues - Lobbes - Thuin museum tram did not in fact operate in summer 1995.

0522][FR, BE] (Lille -) Wannehain SNCF - Espléchin SNCB - Antoing (- Brussel/Bruxelles): (BLN 718.08; Ball 7B1) Extending from a triangular junction south-east of Lille, just inside France, some 20km to a junction with SNCB’s 3000V dc network at Antoing, the first section of newly-built 300km/h 25kV 50Hz TGV Belge line is due to carry London - Bruxelles Eurostars and Paris - Bruxelles TGVs from the timetable change in June 1996. Eurostars at present use the Lille - Blandain - Tournai Ligne 94 route to Bruxelles, but will be re-routed to run Lille - Antoing on the new line, then Antoing - St.Ghislain - Mons on Ligne 78, and Mons - Bruxelles on Ligne 96. This will last until the Antoing - Halle section of the Belgian high-speed line to the capital opens for traffic. (Addition: according to Belgian sources, the London-Brussels will continue to take ligne 94 till 1998, KS)

0523][BE] Deinze - Lichtervelde - De Panne: (BLN 735.0172, 753.0177; Ball 7B2-7A3) Train services between Gent and De Panne are to be electrically worked from the timetable change in June 1996, but the planned single-track extension of the Knokke - Oostende - De Panne metre-gauge coastal tramway (ex- Vicinal, now De Lijn) from its present De Panne Esplanade terminus for 2km inland to a terminal loop outside De Panne NMBS station is unlikely to be completed before May 1997.

0524][BE, FR] (St.Ghislain -) Quiévrain SNCB - Blanc-Misseron SNCF - Valenciennes: (BLN 721.05, 736.0202; Ball 8A1-7B1) SNCB are seeking European Union finance to reopen and electrify this out-of-use cross-border line, but SNCF are showing no interest in the scheme.

This text was provided by the Branch Line Society
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