From the Cab

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The TGV is much more than technical tidbits and performance details. However modern these trains may be, they do not run by themselves. These are accounts of everyday TGV operations, told by the people who work with the trains. If you are involved in TGV operations and would like to add your stories here, please do get in touch.

A Thalys run with Rob Rijs

Rob Rijs is a Dutch Thalys engineer. He takes us in the cab for a run from Amsterdam to Brussels and back, at the controls of a 4530 series trainset:

First of all I must tell you that we (the 12 Thalys engineers based in Amsterdam) do not work on the high speed lines at the moment; our part of the Amsterdam to Paris service is limited till Brussels.

For Amsterdam drivers it was a new expirience working across the border. The only international services we did were the Amsterdam to Emmerich (12 km across the German border) EuroCity and some freight trains. So driving trains into Belgium for the first time was quite exciting.

During our TGV training we had the chance to try the high speed line from Paris and Calais a few times.

Believe me 300 km/h is an amazing speed experienced from the driver's cab, especially when a train comes from the other direction (600km/h). You feel more like a pilot than like a train driver, though I think one gets used to it.

Starting June 1998 we will do the services from Amsterdam to Paris and there are plans to let us do the Amsterdam to Cologne ICE (200km/h) services as well. That however depends on how the services will be organized. (Note: Rob indicates that due to hours of service laws this plan has been changed and he will probably be limited to the Belgian high speed line.)

Starting an Amsterdam to Brussels service:

Tomorrow Friday 22-11-1996, service number Amsterdam 881, the same as next Saturday. We normaly do Thalys services about two times a week but this week I will do them four times because of some days-off and two men sick at home.

9328 Asd - Brusz
9321 Brusz - Asd

The service starts at 07.46 at Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer where the units stay over at night. First I have to check myself in at the HST-VEM service desk. HST-VEM is the company that is responsible for the exploitation of the Thalys services. The drivers are hired by that company from NSR, the passengers department of NS [Dutch Railways].

Next I check in at traffic control in Amsterdam. This is where all drivers have to check themselves in. After checking in I get the packet which contains information about workings being carried out on the Dutch and Belgian networks. I get my timetables which I have to fill out during the trip to Brussels and back; this is unusual on national services.

After I finished the formalities it's time for coffee (on Dutch railways nothing runs without coffee). In the mean time the two train managers have arrived and do a little briefing-- expected delays, changes in the timetables and problems are discussed.

At about 8.20 I go to my train to start the preparation procedures. These consist of what we call a "24-hour check". It concerns the mechanical state of the unit, a test of all safety systems, and a radio test. This takes about 20 minutes. When all systems are go, the train managers are on board, and the catering has finished their work, I declare the train ready for departure to the assistant process controller.

At 9.01 we leave Watergraafsmeer for Amsterdam Central Station. This trip takes about 7 minutes. The train stays for about 10 minutes at Amsterdam CS for passenger boarding. At 9.19 we take off for Brussels. The first stop is Schiphol Airport, and then we call at Den Haag HS and Rotterdam CS. After Roosendaal (we won't stop there) we have to shift from the (Dutch) right track to the (Belgian) left track. After a few kilometers then we have to change the power and signalling systems (ATB off and MEMOR/TBL on, and from 1500v= to 3000V=). Another few kilometers further on we will then cross the border to Belgium at Essen (B). Our next stop will be in Berchem (Antwerpen) and about 40 minutes later we reach Brussels Midi, at the Thalys and Eurostar terminal where drivers and train managers are changed. Arrival in Brussels at 11.57.


Departure form Brussels back to Amsterdam at 12.45, Amsterdam arrival 15.28. After arrival in Amsterdam the train stays there for 11 minutes to let the passengers leave. Then it's back to Watergraafsmeer where I check out the train for any problems. Here, the train will be cleaned up and catered again for the 17.19 Amsterdam to Brussels. I take my timetables and quality report to the ground organisation, do a little debriefing with the train managers (if there have been any problems), then have a beer and try to get home as quick as possible.

The story above concerns a day trip; we also do an early shift Thalys to Brussels and regular Benelux back to Amsterdam. We do a late shift Thalys from Amsterdam to Berchem (Antwerpen) and back as well.

If you have any questions for Rob, you can contact him directly at <>

Last modified: Fri Mar 13 15:40:44 PST 1998

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