Transport issues and dealing with failure

I was intending to post a lengthy rant about the state of the Belgian trains today. There is a bit of track that keeps on having problems: over the last few weeks, we have had signalling problems, a broken down train, and a failure at a level crossing. Inevitably enough, these types of issues always to train cancellations and delays.

When this happens on the way to work this isn’t that big of a deal. I am able to work from home and will do so if there is any problem at all with getting to the office.

It’s more of an issue when I have finished work for the day and walk into the station to find a stream of delays and cancellations being announced. Alternative routes need to be sought and I have to start rethinking at what time I will be home.

It was at this point that I was going to start complaining but, if I’m honest, it isn’t that bad.

Nothing is perfect, of course, and problems will always arise. What really matters is how effectively these problems are dealt with, and in this respect the Belgian train operator, NMBS, does a pretty good job.

While at the station, there are plenty of announcements and electronic displays to tell me which train I need to be catching and, once on the train, there are further announcements telling me not only at which station I need to change, but also which platform I need to be heading towards. Furthermore, the NMBS app provides a good overview of the state of the route, expected and actual
delays, and estimated arrival times.

All of this means that it remains very easy to know what is going on, where I need to be and how much of a delay I can expect. And the final delay was only half an hour, which really didn’t make much difference to anyone.

Failures happen. How an organisation deals with these is important. It’s nice to see this being taken seriously.

The joy of commuting

Normally my train journey into work takes 43 minutes. Today it took over two hours. According to my NMBS App (which, I have to say, is pretty good at keeping you informed as to the state of the Belgian railways as well as being a handy route planner) there was a fire between Brussel Noord and Brussel Centraal.

My usual train is a direct train to Brussel Centraal, stopping at Brussel Noord. So that was cancelled.

There was a train to Leuven. Lots of trains go through Leuven, and it’s in the right general direction, so on I jumped.

When I reached Leuven, the available information was telling me to head to Brussel Zuid (another detour) and take a tram. Fortunately (I think), the train from Leuven was so much delayed that, by the time it reached Brussels, the line had been reopened and I was able to go directly to Centraal station.

And when I finally walked into the office, 90 minutes late, I was informed that three people had taken the day off due to rail issues.

Bunch of lightweights.