Sunday, 18 May 2014

Maastricht, Netherlands

With elections to the European Parliament happening later this week, it seems an appropriate opportunity to take a look at a town whose name is closely linked with the European Union (EU).  The EU was established through a treaty signed in 1992 in the town of Maastricht.

Maastricht, in the southern Netherlands, is home to around 120,000 people.  The town's public transport system is provided by buses.

At the time of my visit, in March 2014, these were operated by Veolia (website in Dutch only).

Ten routes, numbered 1 to 10, operate solely within Maastricht.

Standard single-deck buses, many with three doors, are used on routes within the town.

Several bus routes operate in both directions along Grote Gracht, a narrow street in the heart of Maastricht.

As the street is too narrow for buses to pass, their entry into Grote Gracht is controlled by traffic signals.

Further routes operate out from Maastricht to surrounding settlements.

Two-door single-deckers are used on these services.

Not all bus services serve the heart of Maastricht.  The focal point for the town's bus services is a small interchange outside the railway station.  This is located a few minutes' walk from the town centre, across the River Maas.

The border with Germany lies around 20 kilometres to the east of Maastricht.

Route 50 operates from Maastricht across the border, taking Dutch buses into the German city of Aachen.

Rather closer to Maastricht is the border with Belgium, which runs along the western fringe of the town.  Several cross-border bus services operate into Maastricht from Belgium.  Most are provided by De Lijn, operator of bus services across the Flemish-speaking regions of Belgium.

As well as standard single-deckers, articulated buses operate into Maastricht from Belgium.

There is also an infrequent service into Maastricht from Liège, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium.  This service, which generally runs every 2½ hours, is provided by TEC (website in French only).

Ticketing on Veolia's bus services uses the Dutch national smart card, the OV-Chipkaart.  This card can be used on local transport services (bus, tram, metro and rail) throughout the Netherlands.  It can also be used across the border into Germany on route 50 from Maastricht to Aachen.  Single fares comprise a flat fee plus a variable fee based on the number of kilometres travelled.  For journeys requiring interchange between buses, the flat fee is not charged a second time if you board the second bus within 35 minutes of boarding the first one.  At the time of writing, the flat fee is €0.87.

De Lijn and TEC do not participate in OV-Chipkaart.  Separate fares are charged by these providers.

The national borders around Maastricht do not present an obstacle to the euregioticket.  This ticket is valid on buses and some local rail services across the Maas-Rhine region which covers neighbouring regions of the southern Netherlands, north eastern Belgium and the westernmost part of Germany.  I have written about the euregioticket in a separate post.

There are no trams in Maastricht, at least, not at present.  There is, however, a proposal to build a light rail line linking Maastricht with the Belgian town of Hasselt.  Trains will run on-street through the centre of Maastricht.  More information can be found on the Flanders - Maastricht Tram website.

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