The government has approved a plan by the Dutch Railways (NS) to charge higher fares for train travel during peak hours starting from 2026. The surcharge, which is expected to be up to 20% higher than regular fares, is designed to encourage passengers to travel during off-peak hours and reduce overcrowding on trains during peak times.
The NS has been struggling with overcrowded trains during peak hours for several years. In 2019, the NS carried an average of 1.3 million passengers per day, with 600,000 of those passengers traveling during peak hours. The surcharge is expected to generate an additional €1 billion in revenue for the NS, which it will use to invest in new trains and infrastructure.
The decision to approve the surcharge has been met with mixed reactions. Some passengers have welcomed the move, saying that it is necessary to reduce overcrowding on trains. Others have criticized the surcharge, saying it will make train travel more expensive for people who cannot avoid traveling during peak hours.
The parliament will have the final say on whether the surcharge is implemented. A vote is expected to take place in the coming months.
In addition to approving the peak-hour surcharge, the cabinet has also granted the NS permission to operate as the sole operator on the country’s main railway lines until 2033. The NS, however, will lose its monopoly on international destinations such as London, Paris and Berlin. Other transport companies will also be allowed to offer trips to these cities.
The decision to grant the NS a monopoly on domestic railway lines has been criticized by several political parties and stakeholders. Critics argue that granting such a monopoly might limit competition, potentially leading to higher prices for passengers and reduced innovation in the rail sector. Such concerns have been raised by various MPs and a number of transportation experts.
However, the government has defended the decision, saying that it is necessary to ensure the stability of the country’s railway network. According to the experts, the move is likely to have a significant impact on the railway sector. It is also likely to be challenged in court.