Railroad Lampoon

By Nighty on 26 November 2009

Today, I came in to work an hour late. The cause was a disagreement between three horses and a train regarding the use of the tracks. Unsurprisingly, despite being in the majority, the horses didn't win the argument as the train made it quite clear it had absolutely no time to debate the issue.

What really irks me though is that this is yet another example of how the national railroad acts with a level of incompetence otherwise encountered only in Baldrick's famous "cunnin' plans", and with complete and utter disregard for the inconvenience inflicted upon its paying customers.

07:30 - I'm about to leave for the train station when an SMS comes in from a colleague who took the early train, informing me I'd better drive a little further and get on at the next train station. Apparently something to do with horses being hit by a train, and the possibility of my train being delayed or canceled. Since I don't know whether I'll find a parking spot at the next station and it's not my responsibility to compensate for railway delays in the first place, I decide to go to my regular train station and see if the train gets through. If it doesn't, the railways get on the phone with the bus people to provide alternative transportation anyway.

07:50 - More or less about the time the train should arrive, a bus pulls up. Nothing has been announced through the PA system, and the bus was largely obscured from view from where I and some acquaintances were standing, so we didn't immediately realise this was the bus that was sent to pick us up. A couple of minutes later it pulls up alongside us and a man gets out, shouting at us to get on board because the train isn't coming. So it looked like things were taken care of, although the lack of clear communication was a bit weird.

08:10 - We arrive at the next station, only to see the train leave right before our noses. A woman inquires at the station chief's office, and gets the reply that he didn't know there was a bus coming in. Minutes later we walk in and inquire also, not knowing about the previous exchange. We get the reply that he couldn't know when the bus was going to come in.

So let me get this straight: you refused to hold up a train because you weren't certain when a bus you didn't know was coming would arrive. Well, when you say it like that and slap me over the head with a clean silk handkerchief wrapped around one of them newfangled aluminium baseball bats, it makes perfect sense indeed!

Anyway, there was another train leaving in 15 minutes, which would take a little detour, so I was now looking at a hefty delay. We went for some coffee while we waited, got on board, and finally arrived at our destination, give or take an hour late.

Now, some might call this a gross display of incompetence, but what do you call this? After having arrived at work, it turned out my colleagues already knew about the accident and delays, and one had the newspaper article on the incident on her screen. For those of you who understand Dutch, you can read it here. For those who can't read Dutch or are too lazy to click, here's the loose English translation:

Railroad traffic Hasselt-Bilzen blocked after accident with horses

* Thursday, November 26, 2009
* Source: belga
* Author: ivb, kld

BILZEN - Railroad traffic between Hasselt and Bilzen was blocked for a while this morning, after a train drove into three horses at the crossing with the Laarstraat in Beverst (Bilzen). Presently operations are back to normal.

The accident happened around 2am. Two pregnant mares and a foal didn't survive the impact. It's not clear how the horses got onto the tracks.

Both tracks got blocked because of the accident. For the first trains between 5 and 6am, the infrastructure manager Infrabel provided the travelers with a replacement bus service.

At 6:30 am one track was cleared and the trains could get through again by taking turns. This caused delays for up to ten minutes. At 7:45am normal traffic was resumed, according to an Infrabel spokesperson. How the accident could have happened is still unclear.

If this incident would've been an isolated event, sure. Shit happens, and in the confusion of an abnormal situation with a certain aspect of urgency people make mistakes. And of course, the railway company can not be blamed for distracted cattle wandering onto their tracks. But taking the damn train to work every day of the week for the last 2 years has made me appreciate my previous job where I could work from home and getting dressed for work was optional. Too bad the pay sucked even more than my current job or I might be convinced to return...

Oh well. On the bright side, shared misery somehow manages to get people talking who otherwise would never have exchanged a single word with each other. So I met some new people today, which goes to prove a rant can sometimes have a satisfactory conclusion as long as you try to remain positive about the situation.