Emile Broersma, the director of research and development for transportation company Keolis, says that the Dutch national rail service NS should not bid to operate trains between Groningen and Zwolle.
Translation by Traci White
In the 2017-2021 coalition agreement, the current government cabinet expressed their interest in contracting out four rail lines across the country where NS currently operates: Groningen-Zwolle, Leeuwarden-Zwolle, Apeldoorn-Enschede and Dordrecht-Breda.
NS is reportedly planning to submit a tender for the rail lines, but according to OOG TV, Broersma told the transport trade journal OVPro that the Dutch national rail company should not participate in the bidding process.
Not a level playing field
“The rail system is the Netherlands is still hardly a level playing field. We have seen and continue to see how certain powers-that-be at NS flex their muscle and take advantage of their monopoly position in the market. Until we can know for certain that that is no longer the case, NS should not be allowed to bid for contracts for regional rail concessions.”
Privatisation of the Dutch railroad system began 20 years ago, and since then, companies like Arriva, Hermes, Connexxion and Keolis have been providing regional public transportation in a number of provinces. Broersma asserts that the presence of these providers improves service and lowers costs. “That is not something that the NS seems to have managed, so why would they compete for rail lines where regional providers are doing a better job?”
Performance and profit margins vary from one provider to the next, though, and a recent customer survey among rail travellers in the Randstad found that NS users were just as satisfied with NS as the regional lines when it comes to seat availability, punctuality, information about delays and frequency of trains. Regional providers scored a 7.5 overall, and NS scored a 7.6. In 2016, customer satisfaction for Arriva train users in Groningen and Drenthe was among the highest in the Netherlands.
It is not yet a sure thing that the Groningen-Zwolle line will actually be up for new contract bids. The Secretary of the ministry of infrastructure and water management Stientje van Veldhoven (D66) will assess whether or not new bids for the four regional lines will ultimately improve service. A final decision about opening up the lines for tender is set to come this autumn.
Photo source: pxhere