Transportation and Communications
- During Roman times the Brussels area was bisected by secondary roads. A bridge over the Senne River indicates important trading activity being carried out as early as the 10th century. Early economic growth stemmed in large part from the town's location at the crossroads of an important east-west trade route between Cologne and Bruges. The Bur-gundian regime brought Brussels into a far-flung empire and the city's subsequent status as a growing administrative center and royal residence encouraged road and water connections.The "Chaussée," a municipal agency charged with building and maintaining roads, was in place before 1326. Financially independent, it was run by two "masters" (maîtres) chosen by the aldermen, to whom they reported. The Chaussée utilized a team of pavers directed by a specialist in road construction. It remained an important component of municipal services until the end of the ancien régime. By 1334, many of the city's streets were paved with cobblestones although local roads were poorly maintained from the 13th through the 15th centuries. Paving continued sporadically so that by about the first quarter of the 18th century the city was connected to all the neighboring communes. Good road links were in place to other Belgian towns by the end of the century. The numbering of houses began in the 17th century. The construction of sidewalks in the city began on 1 May 1847.Daily life in the city was regulated by the tolling of bells. At dawn, the Koopklok ("trader's bell") rang to call shopkeepers to their businesses. The Werkklok ("work bell") sounded to mark the beginning— and the end—of the working day. Special events and announcements — reading of proclamations and notification of riots, executions, and enemy attacks—were communicated to the populace by the sounding of the tocsin, the Stormklok ("storm bell").The first mail service was organized in 1516 when Emperor Charles V gave the Taxis family the postal monopoly for the Netherlands and Spain. In 1520, Jean-Baptiste de Tour et Taxis instituted a high-speed system with relay stations and remounts radiating from Brussels to towns in Belgium and to Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, and Toledo. The system remained in operation until the 19th century while journey lengths were shortened and services expanded.In 1684 as many as 64 coaches arrived in and departed from Brussels. By 1835 more than l00 served the city, including four daily departures for Paris. The arrival of railways in 1835 made Brussels the central hub of the new national transportation means. International links began in 1843. Trams began service in 1835 and soon lines stretched to outlying boroughs. Railroads led to the demise of horse-drawn coach services and road conditions leading into and out of the city deteriorated in the 19th century.Water links were established to the sea on completion of the Wille-broeck Canal in 1561 and to the south with the Brussels-Charleroi Canal in 1832. The Port of Brussels inaugurated in 1922 gave the city a modern seaport.On 9 September 1846 the first telegraph line—between Brussels and Antwerp—opened. The first telephone service began in December 1877 from an office in Saint-Gilles with a call made to the Palais de Justice, then under construction. In 1886 links were established to Paris. Radio arrived in 1923 with inauguration of Radio Belgique on 24 November.Early postwar years saw the arrival of television. Much highway building and rebuilding occurred in conjunction with the World's Fair of 1958. A modern multilane ring road was laid around the city.In 1954 the Société des Transports intercommunaux de Bruxelles (Maatschappij voor het Intercommunaal Vervoer te Brussel) was set up as an independent corporation that operates the tram and bus lines in the metropolitan area as well as the metro.Air service to Brussels was launched in 1920. The first European postal service via helicopter began in Brussels in 1950.IRISnet is the telecommunications network serving the Brussels Capital Region.See also Zaventem.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.
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