Sunday 23 December 2018

Antwerpen, Belgium

Antwerpen (or Antwerp, to English-speakers) is Belgium's second city.  Located in Flanders region, Antwerp is home to nearly half a million people.  I visited Antwerpen during a cold snap in December 2017.

Antwerpen's urban transport system is provided by De Lijn, who provide the bus and tram networks throughout Belgium's Flemish region.  In Antwerpen, trams form the backbone of the city's transport network.  A small number of lines operate through the streets of the city centre.

I saw plenty of trams which date from the 1960s, still in front-line service.  Some were operating as single cars.

Tram lines are colour-coded.  The colours are shown on the route displays.



I also noted some which were coupled to run in pairs.



There are some more modern trams too.

These are articulated, with greater carrying capacity.


Antwerpen's magnificent central railway station forms the backdrop to this image.

Not all tram lines remain at street level.  Some lines run underground beneath the city centre (and beneath the river Schelde to Antwerpen's western suburbs), calling at sub-surface stations.

These images show one of the entrances, outside the railway station.

Further major tunnelling work was under way when I visited.

The Noorderlijn project (website only in Flemish) will expand the tram network north of the city.

It is due for completion in 2019.

During my visit, tram line 24 was suspended.

Buses were operating instead over part of the line.



A number of other bus routes complement the tram system.

On urban services, I found single-deck buses with three sets of doors.








One bus service, route 36, links Antwerpen city centre with Linkeroever, a suburb on the western side of the river Schelde.  It uses a road tunnel to pass beneath the river.  "Linkeroever" translates literally as "left bank".

I found a bus with two sets of doors operating on route 36.

There is also a ferry service crossing the river, connecting Linkeroever with the city centre.  The ferry, which operates free of charge, was introduced in July 2017.

There are also waterbus services operating along the Schelde.  Fares are charged on the waterbus.



Information about the ferry and waterbus services can be found on the Port of Antwerp website.

A number of bus services head out from Antwerpen into the surrounding region.

These services use a number of termini in the city centre.  There is no single interchange hub.

Some are operated by standard single-deck buses with two sets of doors...






Articulated buses operate on a number of the services heading out of Antwerpen.

Those I saw had three sets of doors.

Fares on DeLijn's network, both within and beyond Antwerpen  are simple.

At the time of writing, a single ticket costs €3.  This allows interchange for up to 60 minutes.  A 10-journey "Lijn Card" ticket is available for €16, also allowing transfer for up to 60 minutes.  The Lijn Card can be used by several people travelling together, as well as for an individual making multiple journeys.

A day ticket is available for €8 if bought on board a bus or tram, or €6 if bought from a DeLijn "Lijnwinkels" office, from a ticket machine or from a ticket agent.  Three and five-day versions are also available, although these cannot be bought on board a bus or tram.

There is one bus service in Antwerpen which is not part of DeLijn's network.  Antwerpen lies very close to the border with the Netherlands.  Dutch operator Connexxion operates one service between Breda and Hulst, both of which are in the Netherlands, passing through Antwerpen en route.

Long distance and international coach services operate from outside Antwerpen's central rail station.


Airport Express coaches also leave from outside the central rail station.  These go not to Antwerpen's airport, but to the airport at Brussels.

Antwerpen is also linked to Brussels Airport by rail services.

Antwerpen Centraal station is worth a mention.  The station was completed in 1905.  As built, it was a terminus with no through tracks.

In recent years, the station has been extensively remodelled, with tracks and platforms now stacked on three levels.

The tracks serving platforms at the lowest level are through tracks, continuing in tunnel under the city.  This enables trains to serve Antwerpen Centraal as part of a through journey, without needing to reverse in the terminus platforms.

The station is listed as one of Antwerpen's sights on the Visit Antwerpen website.

A public cycle hire scheme operates as Velo Antwerpen.

Unsurprisingly, in the wintry weather conditions which prevailed during my visit, I did not see many people cycling.



I also spotted a cycle taxi.



For tourists visiting Antwerpen, there is a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour.

I found this modern midi-coach in use.

There is also a road train tour, operated by Tourist Tram.  I found the road train doing special Christmas tours.


In closing, may I wish readers of this blog a very happy Christmas.