[passener] We ride the long-awaited three-country train – Aachen-Maastricht-Liege

In the past few days, we rode the new ‘3-country train’, which connects Aachen in Germany via Maastricht in the Netherlands to Liège in Belgium. On 27.06.2024, we took the train between Maastricht and Liège for the official presentation. On 29.06.2024, we did it again as it was the official first day of service (and the last date of Belgian ‘Break’ EMU on the line. 

With a delay of around six years, there is now a direct train connecting the three countries – multisystem FLIRT EMUs (some 7-8 years old) with ETCS operated by Arriva from the Netherlands. A project with a six-year delay (!) due to technical challenges and the lack of political will.

In 2018, just a few months before the initial start, Belgian authorities announced they would not grant authority to the trains because they weren’t equipped with ETCS, which would be mandatory by 2025 (!). Even though the trains were fitted with the then-standard Belgian TBL1+ signalling system, the Belgian authorities remained adamant about their decision. 

Arriva eventually got all 36 FLIRT units equipped with ETCS, a process that also took longer than expected. In early 2023, services to Germany had to be suspended for a while due to ETCS-Balises at Aachen causing system faults in the train. The official launch in June 2024 was also delayed several weeks after a storm damaged the infra around Visé in Belgium. Now people CAN use the trains, although ticketing has still not been agreed upon. You can use your chipcard between Aachen and Maastricht, but not to Belgium.

Impressions of the festive presentation ad first day of service by Henk Zwoferink and Kwong Sang Leung:

Arriva 556 in Maastricht on 27.06.2024 © Henk Zwoferink
Arriva 554 in on track on 29.06.2024 © Kwong Sang Leung
Arriva 554 in Liege on 29.06.2024 © Kwong Sang Leung
Arriva 556 in Liege on 27.06.2024 © Henk Zwoferink
Arriva 556 in Liege on 27.06.2024 © Henk Zwoferink
Arriva 554 in Liege on 29.06.2024 © Kwong Sang Leung
Arriva 554 in Liege on 29.06.2024 © Kwong Sang Leung
Arriva 554 in Liege on 29.06.2024 © Kwong Sang Leung
Arriva 556 in Liege on 27.06.2024 © Henk Zwoferink
Arriva 556 in Liege on 27.06.2024 © Henk Zwoferink