442.The Man in Blue ~ Rotterdam – Den Haag

Travelling by public transport from Vlissingen to Rotterdam is usually by train, and similarly when travelling from Rotterdam to Den Haag the train is the norm. But I liked my trip by bus and coach going from island to island via dikes, bridges and tunnel and I liked my trip by RandstadRail from Rotterdam to Den Haag.

The Randstad is the densely populated area between Rotterdam, Den Haag, Amsterdam and Utrecht. The RandstadRail project connects a suburban railway line to the east of Den Haag with the Den Haag tram system, using tram-trains, and connects a suburban railway line from Den Haag to Rotterdam with the Rotterdam Metro system.

The tram-trains in the Den Haag area are running and passengers travel from the suburbs into central Den Haag without changing. In Rotterdam the RandstadRail metros leave from the Central Station through a new tunnel to connect with the suburban line to Den Haag CS. Eventually the RandstadRail metros will leave from metro station Slinge and run to Den Haag via Zuidplein and Rotterdam CS.

The two services share the same tracks in the Den Haag area between Leidseveen and Den Haag NOI, which is also served by Netherlands’ Railways (NS). See the diagram on one of the pictures that illustrate this article.

After arriving by coach at Zuidplein I took the metro to Central Station where I took some pictures and got a RandstadRail metro to Den Haag. The trip was very pleasant, we ran on schedule and the train had seats that were sufficiently comfortable for the relatively short journey (about 30 minutes).

From Zuidplein to Rotterdam Centraal the metro runs about 8 times an hour, from there to Den Haag 4 times an hour. In the Netherlands there are usually good connections and easy transfers between trains, metro, tram and bus or coach.

The bus, coach and metros to Den Haag were punctual, but when later in the week I went from Den Haag to Amsterdam, Amersfoort and Antwerpen all my trains were running behind schedule.

From Den Haag Central Station I took tram 6 from the high tram and RandstadRail tram-train platform to Hobbemaplein, near the house of my friend Jatinder Singh.

UK trains are not designed for long legged gents like me, in Belgium and the Netherlands even ordinary IC or semi-direct trains offer more legroom than long distance Virgin or East Coast trains.

In the Netherlands ProRail looks after tracks and stations and NS after the train operation. This has increased the number of closures of sections of the track exponentially. Some of the rural lines are now operated by the same companies that run the buses in those regions and this seems to be quite successful.

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441.The Man in Blue – Vlissingen ~ Goes ~ Zierikzee ~ Rotterdam

No stories about family members this time, just a description of my wonderful journey ! Cousin Marie drove me the short distancefrom her house to Vlissingen – Oost Souburg station in her car. We went early as I wanted to buy an OV Chipkaart from the ticket machine at the station. The OV-Chipkaart is like a national version of the London Oystercard, valid on all Dutch public transport systems.

At Vlissingen station I took an intercity double-decker train to Goes, which only took about 20 minutes. In Goes I changed to Connexxions bus 132 to Zierikzee via the Zeelandbrug. There was a little wait but the bus left on time. Dutch buses are more comfortable than UK ones and Dutch roads have fewer potholes.

Goes is on the former Island of Zuid Beveland, connected to Walcheren to the west and the province of Noord Brabant to the east. To go to Zierikzee on Schouwen-en-Duiveland we first crossed to Noord Beveland via the short Zandkreek dike and from Noord Beveland to Zierikzee via the five kilometre long Zeeland bridge. The bad news was that due to fog I could not enjoy the view of the Oosterschelde.

Zierikzee has a proper bus station, but it also has a station used mostly just by people wanting to change to other bus and coach services. That station is called Sas, and there I got off to change to Interliner coach 395 to Rotterdam Zuidplein.

This is an express service stopping once only, but otherwise runs non-stop to Rotterdam Zuidplein. From Schouwen-en-Duiveland we went to the island of Goeree-Overflakkee (province of Zuid Holland) over the Grevelingen dike. Halfway there is a junction from where the Philips dike takes you to Noord Brabant.

We went non-stop past Oude Tonge bus station and then crossed the Haringvliet via the Hellegats dike and the Haringvliet bridge. Before going on to the bridge there again is a junction in the middle of what used to be a wide estuary subject to ebb and flood, which connects to Noord Brabant.

On the other side of the Haringvliet we were on the last island (Voorne Putte) of this trip, which we left through the Heinenoord tunnel, to the north of which you are very near to Rotterdam’s Zuidplein, a major interchange between the Rotterdam Metro and local and long distance buses.

The trip was very smooth and comfortable. We left Goes at 11.33 and arrived a couple of minutes early at Zierikzee from where the Interliner coach left on time (12.00) to arrive a bit early (12.450 at Rotterdam Zuidplein. Why the coach did not stop at the Oude Tonge bus station on Goeree-Overflakkee, which is next to the motorway, I cannot understand. The company must like running empty vehicles.

From Zuidplein I continued by Metro line D to Rotterdam Central Station and from there by RandstadRail metro E to Den Haag Centraal and finally by Tram 6 to the Hobbemaplein, near to where Jatinder Singh lives. To be continued.

439.The Man in Blue – Sint-Truiden to Vlissingen

On Saturday 18 September I went by bus from Halmaal to Sint-Truiden and took the train from there to Brussel Zuid (South). From Brussel there is an hourly intercity train to Amsterdam, with has its first stop in the Netherlands in Roosendaal.

The Benelux intercity has to run on two different voltages and drives on the left in Belgium and on the right in the Netherlands. In Roosendaal I changed onto the ‘stoptrein’ to Vlissingen, where my cousin Marie collected me from the station.

The trip worked out well in spite of the fact that all three trains ran a bit late and in spite of the fact that I had to wait 29 minutes in Sint-Truiden, 48 minutes in Brussel and 18 minutes in Vlissingen. I left from near the Gurdwara on the bus at 07.47 and was due to arrive in Vlissingen at 12.45. But of the official 5 hours travel I was actually waiting in railway stations for about an hour and a half.

In spite of delays and waiting time I still far prefer public transport over travelling by car, where you are a captive in a tin box and are subject to increasingly gridlocked roads, especially around Brussel and Antwerpen.

But if public transport does not improve its performance both on main and branch lines, the car addicts will keep clogging up the roads, and will keep demanding more and more roads, until small and densely populated countries like Belgium and the Netherlands are one big gridlocked motorway !

I went to Vlissingen to visit my cousin Marie, who I had not seen for years. She is the daughter of my father’s elder sister, and my family and hers have always been very close. In 1953 when our ancestral village was flooded for about a year, her father, mother, brother and the maiden aunt had to leave the island our family has lived on since at least 1200.

We lived in Roermond in the Dutch province of Limburg, where there were no floods and Marie’s family of 5 stayed in our small house with our family of 3 for the best part of a year.

As I had no brothers and sisters of my own I was very happy with the new arrivals. It was more of a strain on my parents, especially on my mother who instead of having her own way in her small house coping with a small family, was now dealing almost 24 hours a day with her husband’s family and their way of doing things.

My mother was an Amsterdam city girl, my father and his family came from a small village on what was then a rather isolated island in the province of Zeeland. She liked her new family, she liked the village, but her ways were different from theirs. And this was not a holiday stay, this lasted almost a year. Although there were tensions during this time our families remained close to each other. Years later when my mother was dying of cancer my aunt Sara (Marie’s mother) was part of the team of family members nursing her. (To be continued)