Even though Europe is small and travelling between countries is relatively small, there’s still room for improvement. Especially when it comes to travelling from one smaller city to another, it can still be quite the fuss. Even if those cities are fairly close to each other, as is the case with Maastricht (Netherlands), Aachen (Germany) and Liège (Belgium). As the crow flies, there’s little room in between the three but up until now, it wasn’t that easy to go from one city to the other. As of December 2023, however, things will change.
When you want to connect cities by train that aren’t located in the same country, there’s one big thing to take into account: both the governments and the railway companies have to be willing to work together to make that possible. And that’s not always a piece of cake, as the three-country train service proves oh so well. Even though the project has been in the making since 2019, only now has the green light been given for the service to be actually installed.“Travelers will now have more destinations, more comfort and fully accessible trains across national borders”, as Belgian Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet stated.
The fact that the different operators and the different political levels are working so well together for this purpose is a real step forward.Georges Gilkinet, Belgian mobility minister
For the project to take off, an agreement has been reached between the SNCB (Belgium), NS (Netherlands) and Arriva (Germany). Previously, the Aachen-Maastricht part of the journey had already been installed but Belgium hadn’t yet given its approval due to several practical reasons, amongst which the installation of the European Train Control System aboard the three-country train. However, the transport ministries have now signed a declaration of intent, officially requesting the installment of the service.
So, why then wait until December and not start right away? Well, as one might expect, the organization of a new railway connection asks for everyone to get the details straight. “Trains must be adapted, timetables must be aligned, operators must work together. Thanks to the commitment and perseverance of everyone, we will ensure that this train can run”, Dutch state secretary Vivianne Heijnen said about this subject. The three-country train will run once every hour, making sure both tourists and commuters have a regular schedule to make use of. The instalment of the service also means that people living in those cities will have easier access to international connections, for example to London or Berlin.