One ‘metro‘ system that every proponent of the SkyTrain light-metro ignores is the Charleroi pre-metro. In Belgium traditional LRT is known as ‘trams‘, LRT built as a light-metro is known as pre metro. Pre metro has much in common with SkyTrain, including segregated rights-of-ways and large stations with escalators, etc. The Charleroi Métro is famous for the parts of it which were never built, partially built, or fully completed but not opened. There are many important lessons to be learned, yet one is afraid that the ‘powers that be’ are blind, deaf and dumb, with continued SkyTrain and/or light-metro construction in the Metro Vancouver region. One wonders, with such low ridership numbers, that the Evergreen Line will be Vancouver’s version with the Charleroi.
The Charleroi was planned in the 1960s as a 48-km network, using heavy rail metro trains, consisting of eight branch lines radiating from a central loop downtown. If completed as planned, this would have been the largest metro system in the Benelux region. Funds ran out during construction, however, and only one complete line (to Monument), part of another line (as far as Gilly), and three-quarters of the loop were actually built and opened to traffic, all between 1976 and 1996.
Another branch line towards the suburb of Châtelet (Châtelineau) was almost finished, to the extent of installing track, power cables, escalators and still-working electric signals to the first three stations, but never opened as the expected passenger numbers were too low to pay for the extra staff and rolling stock.
The high costs of construction, together with a decline in Charleroi’s traditional “smokestack” industries, and questioning of the scope of the whole project in proportion to the actual demand for it, are all cited as reasons for the original plan going unfulfilled.
Click onto the following sites to see what a never used or abandoned metro looks like in a few years.