In yet another blow to European rail integration, SNCB (Belgian Rail) has announced it will axe its troublesome fleet of Fyra trains.
These trains were supposed to operate fast and frequent services over the newly-built Belgo-Dutch high-speed line linking Brussels with Amsterdam via Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport.
The new Fyra trains were supposed to be delivered in 2007 but technical issues delayed their introduction until last December.
But after running for only a few weeks, more technical issues emerged during the icy weather in January.
The new sets have been withdrawn from service ever since then and this development aroused much discussion on our forum.
Fyra's Dutch partner, NS (Netherlands Railways), said on Monday that it will also withdraw from the project. The chief executive of NS has announced his resignation over the fiasco.
So what does it mean for passengers?
Well, it's not good news in the short term. Rail users' organisations want the governments of Belgium and Holland to find a solution as soon as possible. That is because the older and slower Brussels-Amsterdam service (it’s slower because it uses the "classic" lines) was withdrawn last December and has not been fully re-instated.
Therefore, passengers must make one or more en route changes and accept longer journey times. There is no timescale for when the conventional trains might be restored.
Business people and others wishing for a fast link between Brussels and Amsterdam must rely on the high-speed Thalys service which, although excellent, is more expensive and operates only every two hours. (There are very few flights and those that do operate are some of the most expensive in Europe).
It is also a concern for Dutch airline KLM which intended that Fyra (on account of its frequent and fairly inexpensive fares) would feed it with more passengers originating in or destined for Belgium. Indeed, KLM holds a 10 per cent stake in the shares held by NS.
And this move cannot please the taxpayers of Belgium and Holland who have forked out huge sums to construct a high-speed line which is used by only one train every two hours.
Imagine the outcry if that were the case with a multi-billion pound high-speed line in the UK?
For more information, visit fyra.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter