EU wants Belgian railways to offer additional trains for Members and staff. Metro ‘too complicated’, 5-minute walk too long
— De Telegraaf (@telegraaf) March 28, 2018
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on 28 March published an article on a report of the EU’s Committee on Budget Control. Or rather, about one paragraph from that report. Under point 35, it says, more or less out of nowhere, that it:
“Encourages the Secretary-General to negotiate with the Belgian railways to offer more direct trains between Brussels-Luxembourg railway station and Zaventem Airport at peak arrival and departure times for Members in order to save travelling time and lower Members’ carbon footprint; asks the secretariat to promote train travel for Members.“
De Telegraaf, in response, says that Zaventem, also known as Brussels Airport is not actually that hard to reach. It notices that if they take the metro to Brussels Central Station, which is just a few minutes walk, many trains leave for the airport every hour. The article further remarks that the train table shows that the wait is never longer than 15 minutes.
The paper interviews socialist MEP Dennis de Jong, who calls the intention to increasingly use the train for travel a good thing, but is then quoted as saying:
“Some of my colleagues just find it too complicated to take the metro first.“
De Jong goes on to criticise the fact that a reduction in the size of the fleet of cars for MEP’s was removed from the report, and De Telegraaf ends by noting that the European Parliament employs 110 drivers for use by the MEP’s.
Let’s just take a step back and look at the problem. What are the MEP’s complaining about? In Brussels, the European Parliament is located at Wiertzstraat 60 less than 500 grueling meters removed from Brussels-Luxemburg Station. If we assume the MEP’s survive this five-minute walk, they are confronted by the fact that the NMBS, the Belgian Railways, operates only one direct train to Brussels Airport every hour, which takes them there in 21 minutes.
Now, one train every hour isn’t a lot. But if you miss it, there is another train 8 minutes later, which takes you to Brussels Noord, where you transfer. This trip takes 38 minutes, instead of 21. Sixteen minutes after that train, there is a third one, also requiring a transfer at Brussels Noord, but the total trip only takes 11 minutes longer in total. There is a pattern here. From Brussels Noord, there are three direct trains to Zaventem every hour, taking under 15 minutes.
Getting to Brussel Noord from Wiertzstraat 60 takes 14 minutes, if, in the interest of lowering your carbon footprint, you were to bike there. There are Villo! rental bikes available at Brussels-Luxemburg, so a quick trip by bike to make up for losing the direct train would only set you back €1,60. Granted, it’s a little more difficult and time consuming to get to Brussel-Noord by metro, requiring a transfer to tram 25 at Montgomery, after getting on either line 1 or 5 at Maelbeek, 850 meters from Parliament. As De Telegraaf reported, it’s easier to go to Brussels Central Station (three direct trains to Zaventem) from Maelbeek: either line will get you there in about 10 minutes.
But of course, if either 1) being in time for your direct train, a five-minute walk from the place where you work, or 2) using public transport to get to a trainstation is “too complicated“, there’s always the bus. Although one hopes the MEP’s aren’t thrown off by the fact that sometimes it’s the 21 and not the 12 and the prices are a bit different if you go to the airport. At least they can have their handler ask the driver to let them know when to get off.