European tram championships this weekend in Brussels: two Stib drivers in the running
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    European tram championships this weekend in Brussels: two Stib drivers in the running

    © Nigel Menzies/Flickr Commons
    Tram 92 in Schaerbeek in 1981
    © Nigel Menzies/Flickr Commons

    Two tram drivers from the Brussels public transport authority Stib will take part on Saturday in the European championships for tram drivers, battling in a number of manoeuvres against fellow drivers from 25 cities in 21 countries. One male and one female driver from each of the city’s seven tram depots took part in qualifying heats, with the two places reserved for Belgium going to Laurence Meert from Ixelles depot and Mesut Tasarcan from St-Gilles.

    Drivers will be tested on agility – guiding their vehicle between sets of traffic cones without touching them – and precision, stopping as close as possible to a fixed obstacle. Other tests involve stopping in line with a two-metre space without using mirrors, and driving at exactly 20 km/h while their speedometer is covered up. In all, six tasks to be completed in five minutes.

    Drivers from other countries will have the opportunity to practice on Brussels tram on the eve of the competition, Marc Coudeyser, in charge of training at the Stib, told Le Soir. “For those who drive Bombardier trams, nothing much will change from what they’re used to,” he said. Some other cities, on the other hand, have different habits. Brussels trams are more powerful than others, for example, to allow them to climb hills. They are also shorter than some, and longer than others.

    Not that driving ability is all that’s involved, according to Meert, a 19-year veteran. “A good tram driver needs to show punctuality, to be open to passengers who might have a complaint, and to avoid accidents as far as possible,” she said.

    The Stib has warned of a change to a number of tram lines on Saturday, on the occasion of the championships.

    The contest will take place on Rue Royale between 09.30 and 17.00. As a result, trams 92 and 93 will not run between the stops Botanique and Louise. Passengers travelling beyond those stops are advised to switch to metro lines 2 and 6.

    On Sunday, an exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of Brussels’ tram service will take place on Avenue Louise. Tram 8 will operate between Roodebeek and Legrand only; tram 93 will run from Stade to Botanique, while tram 92 covers stops between Botanique and Louise. The service between Legrand and Louise is provided by a T-bus.

    Tram line 93 nowadays covers part of the route followed by the city’s first horse-drawn tram, which ran between what is now Botanique and the Bois de la Cambre. It is now the first of a series of “slow-TV” videos made by Bruzz, which follows the route of the tram of today, which can be seen online here.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times