Transportation

Cause and effect (Or: Train chaos by NS)

On Tuesday the train system here in the Netherlands, run by a company called Nederlandse Spoorwegen or more commonly NS for short, went to hell. Well, maybe not literally, but I am sure a lot passengers thought it was!

The craziness actually started around 17:45, when a 21-year-old shoplifter stole something from Albert Heijn at Schiphol airport and fled down the escalators to the train platform. As he noticed he was being chased – by the military police, due to shoplifting at a national airport! – he decided to jump into one of the train tunnels to get away. He was found and arrested anyway.

Amsterdam Centraal - stock photo from NS

Amsterdam Centraal – stock photo

But think about it – what happens when someone runs onto the tracks? The trains are immediately stopped, of course. Anything in the general vicinity. That was the begin of the chaos – Schiphol is an important hub for both travelers entering and leaving the country. But no, it gets even worse.

About an hour later, NS tweets there is a major issue with the railroad switches (which determine what direction a train should go in, this platform or that platform; this direction or that direction) in and around Amsterdam. Because of this, no trains can enter or leave the city. Amsterdam isn’t that far from Schiphol airport – about 15 minutes by train, give or take. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Around 20:00, NS reports that the situation has been fixed and they are bringing the system back online. Around 20:30, this proves not to be the case, with the train system around Amsterdam still down. By 22:00, NS has about 70,000 stranded passengers on its hands and is forced to shut down a train station at Amsterdam-zuid (Amsterdam south) because of overcrowding on the platform.

Passengers begin referencing a seldom used hashtag, #treinpoolen (car pools for train passengers) to try and get car pools organized for people to get in and out of the city. NS even references it in a tweet. It’s too complicated to bring in buses to get people home, since it is too overcrowded and most of the buses are in use elsewhere in the country for other ongoing construction projects. The NS does however promise to get the remaining passengers home that night, with roughly one train running every hour (manually) in each of the directions from Amsterdam. Around about 03:30 that night, the system is fully cleaned and restarted. The only hinderance left is that some trains might be shorter than normal Wednesday morning, since they aren’t in the right starting place anymore. The NS promises to look into the situation.

Later on Wednesday the report is released with the cause of the railway chaos (article in Dutch). It turns out that the thief running into the train tunnels and the major issue with railroad switches around Amsterdam are connected. Cause and effect. When the trains around Schiphol were forced to stop and remain in their current position, one of the trains found itself in a very unlucky place. It was sitting right above the area where the software determines whether a train goes this way or that way. The software thought that a train was repeatedly arriving, and so it repeatedly passed information about which platform to go to. Just over 32,000 times, or 32,768 in exact terms. With 16-bit software, this causes an integer overflow. At the same time, a worker tried to add a platform number by hand for this train. The two events together caused a minor meltdown. Here’s the official article about the cause (still in Dutch).

The crash caused some corruption in the data. Around 20:00, the corrupt data seemed to be removed, but when the system was re-started this was not the case. By 03:30 that night, the system had been fully cleaned and brought back online, just in time for the morning rush hour.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Daily Dutch living, Transportation | Tags: | 4 Comments

Buying an OV-chipkaart (Or: Your ticket to freedom)

The OV-chipkaart (OV=openbaar vervoer=public transportation, chipkaart=chip card) is used throughout the Netherlands as a means for paying for a public transportation journey, be it train, tram, bus…

The card is used to check in and check out by holding the card against a reader as the traveler enters and exits the vehicle. Useful, but it can cause delays at some of the more crowded stops. When I travelled to Dublin I was intrigued by having the check-in and check-out machines at each of the stops rather than inside of the vehicle – it saves some boarding time that way, although the costs are higher for having machines at every stop.

The OV-chipkaarts expire after 5 years. Ironically, all of this household’s OV chipkaarts (5 in total) expired within a few months of each other. But this gave me the opportunity to visit the HTM-service desk at The Hague Centraal, which I hadn’t yet had an excuse to do.  And of course I dragged Marco along to experience the fun.

HTM brochure for traveling with an OV chipkaart

Information booklet for traveling with an OV-chipkaart, with information in Dutch, English and German. Handy for the tourists!

It was around 16:30 on a workday, and already fairly busy inside the service area. The area is serviced both by HTM as well as by NS, the national train company. We didn’t have to wait too long to get helped. Each card costs €7.50, before adding any funds on it. Luckily the HTM worker mentioned that the option to use the card to travel by train (NS) needed to be added manually, otherwise we would have been in for a surprise!

In this case we asked for anonymous cards (the blue variety) which can be used by anyone. There’s a few minor differences between those and personalized cards (yellow variety) – the main difference being that personalized cards can be automatically re-filled when they hit a minimum amount, for instance. But generally anonymous cards work fine.

Marco and I also both got information booklets on traveling with an OV-chipkaart, as you can see above. Not strictly required, but always fun to read (for me!).

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One very windy day (Or: Last week’s wind storm)

On Thursday Europe was hit with a “wind storm”, which sounds a lot wussier than it actually was. Not much rain, but it still managed to bring the country to a halt for the day. The good (or bad) news was that the peak of the storm was around 11am, which meant that most people were able to get into work. But getting home was another matter entirely…

By about 10 or 10:30am The Hague tram system was shut down. Not surprising, since about 15 minutes before the shutdown someone tweeted a photo of a tram shelter’s roof after it flew off in the wind. Two glass panels actually – the second one is behind the right tram shelter. (Here’s a look at a tram stop roof in better times.) The buses shut down about 15 minutes after the trams.

The Washington Post has an article with a collection of photos and videos from the storm (including the person flying across the plaza in Den Bosch, which every Dutch person has seen at least once now, and the guy too stubborn to let go of his bike in The Hague).

The only picture I have of the day is someone standing in the glass at a tram stop that night:

Broken glass at tram stop, The Hague

 

Categories: The Hague, Transportation | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Blocks of color (Or: Mondriaan inspired art at The Hague’s train station)

Last month a group of friends and I went to Rotterdam for a WWE wrestling show at Ahoy in Rotterdam (I always have to resist the subconscious urge to call the the place ‘Chips Ahoy‘ after the cookie).

While waiting for a few friends getting coffee at Starbucks I took a photo of the Mondriaan inspired art at the train station; Den Haag Centraal.

Mondriaan colors at Den Haag Centraal (train station in The Hague)

And I still love the roof. Which looks even more awesome on a cloudy day.

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Removing temptation (Or: Bus and tram benches being replaced in The Hague)

Back in March 2015 The Hague replaced the shelters at bus and tram stops. The best part of the new design in my opinion was the much prettier glass on the sides and top. The design also included new benches which have since become an issue for curious kids. Have a look and see if you can guess what the issue is:

Holes in the bus and tram shelter benches in The Hague

Yep. The holes (which are used to drain off rainwater) are just the right size for a curious kid to stick their finger in. It took around a year (August 2016) for the first curious kid to get a few fingers stuck in the bench but after that the incidents just kept coming this year. With the first child they decided to administer anesthesia on the spot and cut out the bench around the finger, but since then they have removed an entire section of the bench and transported the child to the hospital (with part of the bench still around his finger) to remove it there.

Last month it was decided that the benches would be replaced using the advertising money the shelter generates, but it was still at a cost of more than half a million. The benches now use slits rather than holes to let the rainwater escape. The replacement of the benches began on May 2nd and will take until mid-July. And guess what happened on May 2nd? Yep, another kid got his fingers caught!

Speaking of trams, a friend and I went to the remise or depot in Scheveningen to see (one of the places) where the trams are stored overnight. This is also where the workers start and end their shifts.

HTM remise in Scheveningen.jpg

Tram remise in Scheveningen

The tram above is being driven backwards into the remise. There’s a small grey box at the back of these older trams which tram drivers can use to “back the tram in”. That way they are facing the right direction when they need to leave in the morning. It’s only needed for the older types – the two types that have come since then are made to be driven from either direction during normal operation.

Categories: Scheveningen, The Hague, Transportation | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Bus 72 in The Hague (Or: An outdated sign)

Just a sign I came across while wandering around The Hague:

Outdated bus 72 sign in The Hague

Let op! spelende kinderen = Caution! Children playing

It looks like the kids spent their entire time outside throwing a ball at that particular sign, considering how dented it is…

Underneath you have a sign for bus 72, a temporary bus stop. It goes on to say that bus 72 replaces tram 6 and tram 12 for certain areas of the city during ‘wintery conditions’. Luckily we are now in April, so I assume we won’t be having any more ‘wintery conditions’.

Take down the sign and bring on spring!

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New metro station (Or: The Hague to Rotterdam)

As of yesterday the new metro station at The Hague’s Centraal station is ready! It connects The Hague with Rotterdam via metro line E. Marco and I were waiting for a bus to Wassenaar so I took some pictures from a distance:

New metro station at The Hague Centraal

The white tunnel form definitely reminds me of the design near the Beatrixlaan station. And another one:

New metro station at The Hague Centraal 2

Maybe Marco and I have a good reason to finally visit Rotterdam now. I think the last time I was there was for a WWE wrestling show… But that was three years ago, so I am sure I have been back since then. Right? 🙂

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Ride free with tram 11 day (Or: HTM flyers and ice cream)

Yesterday HTM had a promotion to ride free with tram 11 so that you could experience the new Avenio trams. So far tram 2, 11, and 17 ride with the new model. 11 has had the new model for a while, but considering the route is from Station Holland Spoor to the beach (stop Strandweg), perhaps they were waiting for better weather. And we definitely had awesome weather!

Tram 11 coming around the corner (actually at the beach, so this photo was taken on the way back):

Tram 11 by Strandweg HTM The Hague

A promotional cover over the machine you normally use to check in and out. It says ‘Travel today for free’.

Ride free with tram 11 day June 2016

Continue reading

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Public service announcement (Or: I love trams)

(Public service announcements, or PSAs. Basically messages that are freely distributed to the public because they are in their best interest.)

Trams rule! I never realized this while growing up in the US because there wasn’t much public transportation around. Or when there was, it was just buses, and I am not as big a fan of those.

Here’s the birthday card Roger made for me. Front cover – a look at the Avenio trams, the newest model. Some of the tram lines have started to use them (2 and 11) with 1, 9 and 17 next. You can just make out the top of the tram where he edited the sign to say “Niki’s birthday”.

Tram themed birthday card - front

Inside you can see a map of The Hague (at the very bottom), and then a tram service schedule on the left side, with a picture of an older, yellow tram sign you would find at a stop on the right. Roger even added a picture of gourmetten in the middle since that’s what we ate on my birthday. Finally, in the middle you have a look at the tram lines throughout The Hague.

Tram themed birthday card - inside

And a look at the two books that I currently have checked out from the library:

Two books about trams in the Netherlands

The larger book is a photographic history of trams in The Hague since 1945 (until 2011). The smaller one is a non-fiction book written by a journalist who spent a year working as a tram conductor in Amsterdam.

I love trams. No interest whatsoever in driving them, but I love reading the latest news. Try htmfoto.net or HaagsOVforum.nl. The first one includes way more than just tram stuff, or even HTM stuff. There’s a lot of old pictures of the city to lose yourself in.

Categories: Transportation | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Hop on, hop off (Or: New tourist tram in The Hague)

In June of this year, The Hague will begin a hop-on, hop-off tram service aimed at tourists (Article: English | Dutch).

From the English article: “The Tourist Tram, in historical cream with a green trim, is launching in June. The route connects the historic city center, the planned museum district around Lange Voorhout, the Vredespaleis and the Kurhaus together. It will also travel through the international zone, the Gemeentemuseum and Omniversum and go all the way Scheveningen.”

Tickets will cost 14 euros, or 18 euros per day, while kids under 12 can ride for 5 euros for two days. I thought that was a bit pricey considering a day ticket for HTM (The Hague’s bus and tram service) costs 6 and a half euros per day, but it looks like this tourist tram includes an audio tour which is in several different languages, including Haags (The Hague’s dialect). The route also links together a lot of tourist hot spots, so you only have to board one tram and you don’t have to research all of the routes. That could be a big plus for tourists.

Den Haag tourist tram

The tourist tram that will start running in June (photo: Maurice Haak / Den Haag)

The tram is mainly intended for the summer months, traveling every half hour between 09.30 and 17.30. After the summer, it will only be in service on weekends or holidays. Hopefully it is a good enough investment that they can expand service a bit!

Categories: The Hague, Transportation | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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