Train cancellations rose almost 50% last year

A new type of postman: delivering letters and reporting dog mess?

The number of train cancellations due to technical failures and problems with signals and points rose by 46% last year, according to website The website bases its claims on information provided by Dutch railway company NS. In total, 32,899 services were cancelled because of problems. Last year there were a number of major technical failures which affected dozens of trains. For example, a lightning strike in March knocked out a switching centre, leading to 961 cancellations. [banner] NS partly blames the increase on tougher safety rules which, for example, require repairs to be carried out at night. The Rotterdam Gouda service has the worst service, losing 2,501 trains over the year. Third parties According to track operator Prorail, 36% of the cancellations were due to problems with the infrastructure itself and over half to 'third parties', without going into details. Suicides, however, are known to lead to a large number of cancellations. On Monday it emerged record numbers of rail travellers have complained about overcrowded trains in the past month. A total of 3,600 complaints were received in November, mainly from passengers who had to stand. A number of them are preparing to take legal action against the NS for failing to provide them a seat.  More >

100,000 bikes are never reclaimed

A new type of postman: delivering letters and reporting dog mess? Of the 161,000 bikes confiscated by officials in the Netherlands' biggest 20 cities last year, over 100,000 were never picked up by their owners, the AD says on Tuesday. In Haarlemmermeer, for example, officials removed 462 wrongly parked or abandoned bikes and just six were collected, the AD says. In Rotterdam, 22% of bikes are picked up while in The Hague and Utrecht around one-third are reunited with their owners. Amsterdam leads the way in removing bikes. Last year 70,000 were taken to the city's massive depot in the western harbour. The AD does not say how many were eventually claimed. [banner] The cycling association Fietsersbond said many people think their bikes have been stolen and don't bother to report them or check out the 'lost bike' parks. In addition, the association says many local authorities are too quick to remove bikes and says owners should make a formal complaint if they feel the rules have been broken. Many of the bikes which are not picked up are sold for scrap. Others are sold to bike traders for refurbishment and resale.  More >

Dutch call for corporate climate action

Dutch say companies too must work to stop climate change A new report from the Netherlands-based Transnational Institute says that 12 corporate sponsors of the current climate change talks in Paris are involved in fossil fuels or lobbying against pollution controls or other environment-unfriendly practices. Generali and BNP Paribas, for example, finance coal and other forms of 'dirty' energy while Air France fights against tougher rules on aircraft emissions, the report says. 'The UN climate talks are a "greenwashing" heaven: companies spend lavishly to invent dramatic examples of their stellar climate performances, to claim the most virtuous social practices, and to increase their profits,' the institute said. [banner] Leaders from 150 countries plus 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are attending the COP21 conference. The aim is to agree on legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which will keep global average temperatures below a two degree increase on pre-industrial global temperatures. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters in Paris that companies as well as governments will have to take action to reduce global warming. The efforts which countries themselves can make will not reach the target of a maximum 2% rise in global temperatures, Rutte said. 'To reach that, you need a contribution from companies and social organisations.' [banner] Despite the Netherlands' poor performance in some rankings, the country is making progress, Rutte said. 'We are one of the most densely populated countries in the world and we are in a river delta,' he said. This, Rutte said, makes it more difficult for the Netherlands to reach climate targets than other countries. The Netherlands is represented at the detailed negotiations by newly-appointed junior environment minister Sharon Dijksma. 'Both developed countries and developing countries take responsibility and contribute according to their ability,' she said in a statement ahead of the talks. 'In particular, the Netherlands wants a climate agreement that will help the poorest of the poor bear the impact of climate change and that will take particular account of small, precarious island states,' the statement said.  More >

Cocaine bales wash up on Dutch beach

Cocaine worth €7.6m washes up on Dutch beach Ten travel bags of cocaine, weighing a total 225 kilos, have washed up on the shore near the seaside resort of Noordwijk, local broadcaster Omroep West reports. The drugs were sealed in bags with empty jerry cans to act as buoyancy aids and are said to have a street value of €7.6m. The first bales were found by waterboard officials, who called in the police to help with the hunt on Monday morning. They used helicopters in an effort to spot more packages but so far no more have been found. The drugs are thought to have come from a ship or boat. [banner]  More >

PostNL tests out multi-tasking postmen

A new type of postman: delivering letters and reporting dog mess? The Netherlands' postmen and women will become the 'eyes and ears' of local councils, spotting overflowing rubbish bins and dog mess, if an experiment by PostNL is successful. Postal delivery staff in Schiedam, near Rotterdam, are currently taking part in the trial,  using mobile phone photos to alert council officials to situations which need dealing with, the AD says on Tuesday. 'Delivery staff walk the same streets every day and know their area like no one else,' PostNL spokeswoman Hanne Kluck said. 'This is something councils can benefit from.' [banner] The experiment is not costing Schiedam anything and will run until mid-December.  Other councils are being invited to volunteer to run more trials next year. 'The extra tasks have to be doable, delivery staff must want to carry them out and councils must see the need as well,' Kluck said. Delivery workers will get paid for their extra work, the AD says.  More >