Monday, 9 March 2015

3 countries, 3 languages, 2 modes, 1 ticket

In the United Kingdom, our transport systems generally don't yet offer fully seamless, integrated, inter-modal ticketing.

In some areas, bus operators co-operate with each other to offer all-day tickets which are valid on all local buses.  In some places, the all-day tickets may also include travel on ferries, trams, metro and/or local rail services.  Where this is the case, the all-day ticket is often promoted and co-ordinated by a local authority or a local transport authority and generally valid only within that authority's area.

Imagine a ticket which is valid on both bus and railway services, and which ignores not only local authority boundaries but also national borders.  Imagine such a ticket being offered across an area straddling three countries, where three different languages are spoken.

Such a ticket exists.

The regional authorities in eastern Belgium, the north-western corner of Germany and the south of the Netherlands have formed the EU Regio Maas-Rhin.

The euregioticket allows a day's unlimited travel by bus and rail across the region.  At weekends, up to two adults and three children can travel together using one ticket.  This also applies on public holidays.

Public holidays are different in each of the three countries but the ticket can be used as a group ticket on any day which is a public holiday in any of the three countries.  So, for example, if it is a public holiday in Germany, a group could travel using one ticket on bus and train services in Belgium and/or the Netherlands.

In Germany, the euregioticket is valid in Aachen and around the surrounding region.


Aachen's bus services are coordinated by Aachener Verkehrsverbund (AVV), website in German only.

Services are operated with a variety of vehicles, including some bi-articulated buses.

A number of bus services operate from Aachen into the surrounding region.  The euregioticket is valid for travel on these services, and on local rail services in the Aachen region.

Most local train services into Aachen are provided by German operator DeutscheBahn.

There is a service into Aachen from Belgium, which is provided by Belgian rail operator SNCB/NMBS.  The euregioticket can be used on this service too.

While Belgian trains operate into Aachen, German trains operate a local cross-border service from Aachen into the Netherlands.

This image was taken at Heerlen.


The euregioticket is valid on the bus services which run into Aachen from the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as on local train services crossing the border.

In the Netherlands, the euregioticket covers Maastricht and the surrounding area.

Local buses in Maastricht, and within the surrounding part of the Netherlands, are provided by Veolia (website in Dutch only).

Veolia also operate some of the local rail services into Maastricht, while other domestic services are provided by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS).

Belgian trains also operate across the border into Maastricht on a service from Liège.

De Lijn operate several bus routes into Maastricht from Hasselt, in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium.

The euregioticket is valid into Hasselt and the surrounding region too.

In Belgium's French-speaking Walloon region, bus services are generally provided under the TEC brand (website in French only).

The euregioticket is valid on buses in the city of Liège... 


... and on bus routes serving the surrounding region.


The main railway station in Liège has recently been rebuilt.  The euregioticket can be used on the routes heading eastwards towards the German border, and northwards to Maastricht and Hasselt, as well as on the bus routes which serve the station.

These images show a train on the local service to Aachen in Spring 2014.  This service was altered in December 2014, passengers using local trains between Liège and Aachen are now required to change at Verviers.

Long-distance high-speed Thalys and ICE trains provide a fast, direct link from Liège to Aachen, however the euregioticket cannot be used on those services.

The images to the right and below were taken in the town of Spa.  Spa can be reached by local trains and by bus.  The euregioticket is valid on both.

The EU Regio Maas-Rhin is administered from the town of Eupen.  Eupen lies in a small area of Belgium where German is the official language.

TEC provides the bus services in this area, however their website is only available in French.

From Eupen, buses operate into both Germany and the Netherlands.

The bus route linking Eupen with Aachen is shared between TEC and Aachen's transport undertaking, AVV.

TEC's route 396 links Eupen with Vaals, a Dutch town right on the border with Germany.

At Vaals it connects not only with services provided by Veolia but also with services operating as part of Aachen's local network.

Although some of Aachen's services terminate on the German side of the border at Vaals Grenze, others continue into Vaals itself.

This image was taken at Vaals Grenze, just within Germany, although the buildings in the background are in the Netherlands.


At weekends, a minibus service provided by Veolia operates from Vaals up into the hills where the Dutch, German and Belgian borders meet.


You may wonder why I have not mentioned any tram systems covered by the euregioticket.  None of the cities it covers currently have trams.  However, preparatory work started in 2014 to return trams to Liège (website in French only), while there are proposals for an interurban (and cross-border) tram system linking Hasselt with Maastricht (website in Dutch only).

The euregioticket is currently priced at €18.  It can be bought from transport enquiry offices, ticket offices at staffed railway stations, ticket vending machines and on board buses.

Information about the euregioticket is available in English from the Belgian Rail website.  A map showing the area of validity is contained within a leaflet in French, Flemish and German, which can be downloaded from the Aachen public transport (AVV) website.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Updated 27th February 2016

In my previous post, I described the local transport services I found in Gran Canaria's holiday resorts.

The main resorts are on the island's south coast.  The island's capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is in the north-eastern corner of the island.

A network of local bus routes within Las Palmas is provided by Guaguas Municipales.  Guagua (pronounced "wa-wa") is a local term for "bus".

Many of the buses I saw were low-floor single-deckers with three sets of doors.

The bus fleet includes at least one hybrid-powered vehicle.


Some smaller single-deckers were also in use.




Not all the Guaguas Municpales fleet was standard single-deckers.  I noted some smaller vehicles operating, including some minibuses.



At the other end of the scale, I also noted a number of articulated buses in Las Palmas.

In addition to scheduled bus services throughout Las Palmas, Guaguas Municipales also provide a "dial-a-ride" door-to-door transport service, for passengers with severe mobility impairments.  This service has to be booked in advance.

At the time of writing, a single journey on Guaguas Municipales buses costs €1.40, if bought on the bus.  Cheaper tickets are available for advance purchase - €2.40 for a 2-journey ticket or €8.50 for 10 journeys.  These advance-purchase tickets permit transfers, but only in specific cases.

There is also a contactless card which can be recharged, with a minimum recharge of €8.50 (10 journeys), while monthly tickets for unlimited travel on Guaguas Municipales services are also available.

Bus services linking Las Palmas with other parts of Gran Canaria, including the holiday resorts, are provided by Global (Salcai Utinsa).

Whereas Guaguas Municipales use low-floor vehicles, the Global fleet is high-floor. 
Some vehicles are equipped with wheelchair lifts, enabling passengers using wheelchairs to travel, although I have been unable to find out which services (or which timetabled journeys) provide wheelchair accessibility.

A number of bus services from Las Palmas call at the island's airport. There is also a dedicated express coach service linking the capital with the airport.

A bus station at San Telmo, in the centre of Las Palmas, is the hub for Global's services into and out of the city.

Most of the bus station is just below ground level.


Although many of Global's services start and end at San Telmo, some services continue to another bus station at Santa Catalina in the newer, northern part of Las Palmas.

As at San Telmo, the Santa Catalina terminus is just below ground level.

The airport coach is one of the services which serves both San Telmo and Santa Catalina.

Whereas the bus station at San Telmo is used only by Global, Santa Catalina is also the terminus for several Guaguas Municipales services.

The bus terminus is accessed from street level by escalators, with lifts providing step-free access.

Note that the lift shaft carries the words "bus station" (image right) as well as "estación de guaguas" (image below).

There are no railway systems on the Canary Islands, while the Canaries' only tram system is on the island of Tenerife.

Las Palmas did have a tram system, but this last operated as long ago as 1941.  Nevertheless, a short section of tram rail is embedded in Calle Triana, a pedestrian shopping street in the old town.

There is also a café resembling a tram in the newer part of the city centre, in Calle José Mesa López.

There are proposals to build a tramway linking Las Palmas with Maspalomas, at the southern tip of Gran Canaria. 
Finally, for tourists visiting Las Palmas, a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour is operated under the City Sightseeing brand.  The tour operates daily, all year round, using open-top double-deck buses.

The number of cities operating a public cycle hire scheme is growing.

When I visited Las Palmas in January 2015, the city had yet to introduce its scheme.  By the time I returned a year later, By Bike LPA was up and running.

Images in this post were taken in January 2015 and February 2016.