woensdag 12 december 2012

Tenenkrommende talen in de Fyra

"Dat doen we zelf wel even,"  moeten ze hebben gedacht bij NS toen ze de omroepberichten opnamen die worden afgespeeld in de Fyra. Met het verdwijnen van de Beneluxtrein via Den Haag werden ook de viertalige berichten afgeschaft die de conducteur 'live' in de trein voorlas. Reizigers in de nieuwe Fyra tussen Brussel en Amsterdam worden nu toegesproken door een vriendelijke, ingeblikte damesstem. Van een Nederlandse dame, en helaas is het resultaat tenenkrommend.

Je wordt welkom aan boord geheten in vier talen, en de stem wenst Duitstalige gasten op gastvrije wijze "eine angenehme Reis". Reis...uh? En van reizigers die de trein verlaten, wordt netjes afscheid genomen. Duitsers die gaan uitstappen, worden aangesproken als reizigers die "hier aus teigen". Maar midden in "aussteigen" hoort toch echt een "sj".

Maar juffrouw Fyra kan het wel, hoor, zo'n "sj" laten klinken. Hoor maar: Franstalige passagiers zijn welkom aan boord van deze trein "avec destinasjon" Amsterdam Centraal. Niet fraai, want in het Frans hoort er een superscherpe S te klinken in "destinassssion".

Nog bonter maakt NS het met de plaatsnamen. Die worden automatisch ingevoegd in de opgenomen omroepboodschappen. Het volgende station is: puntje puntje. Ronduit rampzalig is, dat in alle vier de talen de Nederlandse versie van de naam wordt afgespeeld. Maar Duitsers en Fransen kunnen "Amsedam Centraal" niet plaatsen, die verstaan het pas als je "Amstèrdam" zegt.

Nog bonter maakt Fyra het bij het benoemen van de Sinjorenstad. "Prochaine arrêt: Antwerpe Centraal. Nächster Halt: Antwerpe Centraal. Next station: Antwerpe Centraal." Weinig kans dat Fransen of Engelsen dat meteen verstaan, want die hebben hun oren gespitst op "Anvèrsontral" of "Aentwurpcentrol".

De Fyra V250.
(Foto: Arnold de Vries)

Gratis advies aan NS: laat die viertalige boodschappen inspreken door vier mensen die deze talen ook echt beheersen. Zonder Hollands accent, en met de juiste plaatsnamen. De kans dat de 'live'  boodschappen van de conducteur in vier talen terugkeren, lijkt me miniem. 

Kort samengevat: De zetels in de nieuwe Fyra-treinstellen zijn prima: geen rugklachten en genoeg beenruimte. Maar na een reisje Brussel-Amsterdam doen wel mijn oren zeer en zijn mijn tenen totaal krom.

dinsdag 3 juli 2012

Criticism of Hungary's Media Law flares up after panda incident

Only days after the Hungarian parliament formally approved a controversial new media law, renewed criticism of the law was sparked by a fine imposed on a radio station for insulting animals. 
Photo: Chi King
Music station Neo FM, in an edition of its satirical show "Boomerang" made some jokes about species which are in danger of disappearing. The Media council fined the station 800 euros following a complaint from an animal rights activist.

The Media Council members are appointed by the Budapest parliament and serve a nine-year term. All members of the council, which is seen as powerful, are said to be associates of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party. Last month the Fidesz-dominated parliament approved a controversial new media law. The OSCE has said that the law, despite some changes, was still too unspecific about the criteria for licensing broadcasters.

Pandas do nothing

The presenters at Neo FM had said that, for example, it would not matter to anybody if pandas became extinct, "because they do nothing else all day but sit on their behinds and eat". Turtles, too, came in for some sarcastic comments. "They have lived long enough anyway."

In response to the complaint, the Media Council judged that with their behavior, the station's presenters had "given a bad example to children".

The political Velemenyvezer blog, which revealed the affair on Thursday, said that it confirmed "our worst fears", as the law apparently permits the Media Council to "remodel the Hungarian media landscape after its own image". The blog criticised the unbalanced make-up of the council.

(Le Monde/diePresse.com)

zondag 18 maart 2012

A butterfly for Brussels

The city centre is attracting too much traffic. It's every urban planner's nemesis. One way to get rid of the problem, and quite a daring one too, has been proposed for the Brussels metropolis: If you want to get rid of traffic movements in the centre, get rid of the Central Station.

It's one of the options presented in a recent exhibition at Brussels's Bozar Museum entitled BRUssels 2040. Three urban planning bureaus were invited to come up with suggestions for keeping the Brussels conurbation liveable.

The Brussels Capital Region has acknowledged that the private car does not provide a lasting solution to the increasing mobility gridlock facing the city which is the capital of Belgium and the crossroads of Europe. In fact, the regional authority is envisioning a wholly or partly carless city by 2040, and the three agencies followed suit. Recent findings suggest,  moreover, that the level of microparticle dust in the Brussels air is threatening public health, which provides another argument to take a critical look at car use in the city. Urban architect Paola Vigano of Studio 012 said; "The concept of a car-free city is a way to develop a sustainable city; but also a tool to visualise the city in a totally different way, to redraw it."

In the studies mass public transit is embraced as the only way forward, combined with improvements in the rail infrastructure around the urban sprawl which is housing some 2 million people. The proposed projects do not only aim at accommodating these transport systems but are embedded in wider-ranging views on how to turn concentric Brussels, a "monopole metropole", into a multi-centred mesh. Waterways, valleys and other landscape elements are used to structure and strengthen the urban enviroment, rather than seeing them as obstacles.

Brussels is seen as part of a huge metropolitan zone stretching from Lille in France to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Finding solutions involves thinking "both on the scale of the Eurodelta and on the scale of Brussels proper," according to landscape architect Bas Smets of the 51N4E team.  And if that raises your eyebrows, rest assured that the exhibition at Bozar does a good job of visualising the sometimes arcane philosophies of the urban visionaries.

Keep the connection
Closing the Central Station on Brussels' underground cross-city link between North and Midi (South) stations does not involve closing down the link itself, far from it. After all, it took the Bruxellois about a century to design and build the thing; it only opened in 1958. And it is indispesnable for national and international rail travel. The train tunnel under the city will stay, serving trains whose itineraries take them from somewhere outside the Belgian capital to somewhere else outside the Belgian capital. Passengers who are not travelling through but have Brussels as their destination, though, will have to get off the train at either Brussels Schaarbeek in the north, or Brussels Midi in the south, according to a proposal drawn up by bureau 51N4E.

Two loops
So those passengers are left stranded in the outskirts, having to make their way to the centre and other areas of Brussels by taxi, bus, tram or metro? How is that an improvement? No, they aren't. The good people at 51etcetera propose upgrading the hardly used old, pre-tunnel rail infrastructure around the city, plus parts of the well-maintained STIB local rail network, creating two Regional Express Railway loops, with the underground North-South connection forming the overlapping bit of both loops.

The perceived need to build a RER to complement the existing train, tram and metro system was in fact what prompted the capital's authority to commission these Brussels 2040 studies. Travellers, be they tourists, business people or commuters, having transferred to an RER train, would reach their destinations by alighting at existing but currently unused or underused stations, possibly with a final leg by tram or metro taking them radially out beyond the periphery or... into the city centre. That's a much more scattered transport load than one emanating from one Central Station and radiating in all directions.

Butterfly for Brussels
© 51N4E l'AUC BBS 
A map of such a Regional Express Rail (RER) network would resemble an outline drawing of a butterfly. As a symbol of carefree metropolitan mobility in the 21st century, it would be a respectable addition to the other icons of the Belgian capital, 17th-century civil war mascotte Little Man Pee and 1950s futuristic Atomium. Go butterfly, go!

It is tempting to speculate, but beyond the scope of this piece, about the infrastructure and rolling stock needed for this approach. When train passengers change from national high-platform services to the RER, would that be running high-platform stock too? The high/low modal transition would then take place only if the RER traveller changed to a tram or bus, or to the metro, assuming  all have adopted low-floor stock by 2040. The options are many, considering that much of the rolling stock of Brussels' tram and metro is due to be renewed in the decade leading up to 2040.

© Studio 012
Two comforting thoughts
For those advocating the tram solution, it is a a comforting thought that the Studio 012 bureau, for one, explicitly retains street-level rail transport as an integral part of their solutions for Brussels 2040.

And for those familiar with the complexities of Belgium's multi-level system of government, it is a comforting thought that we have another 28 years to go before it is 2040.

The three teams who wrote the studies:
51N4E l’AUC Bureau Bas Smets
Studio 012 Bernardo Secchi/Paola Viganò
KCAP Architects&Planners