European Commission inquiry into NS high-speed contract

The European Commission has begun an inquiry into whether the Dutch government is guilty of giving state support to railway company NS, something which is forbidden under EU law.

The case concerns the awarding of the contract for the high-speed line to the NS, according to NRC and based on sources at the transport ministry and the European Commission.

The NS won the concession for the high-speed line in 2001. In 2011, the line was made part of the national rail network in a contract that runs until 2025.

At the same time, the €148m annual payment to the government for the concession was reduced to €101m. According to NRC, the NS bid far too much in 2001 in order to win the concession, but the payments put it in financial difficulties.

Unfair competition

Since 2011, the European Commission has received a number of complaints about how the concession has been handled. ‘The government has lowered the payments and demands less of the high-speed line. That is unfair competition,’ professor Chris Jansen told NRC.

Competing train companies such as Arriva and Veolia, who missed out in 2001, say the NS is being protected by the government. Veolia CEO Manu Lageirse told the paper he is talking to the European Commission about the case but has not yet made a formal complaint. Passengers’ group Beter OV said recently it has made a complaint.

The debacle with the Fyra high-speed train, taken out of service earlier this year, means the NS is missing another point contained in the 2001 contract: that of speed. The Commission spokesman said they are ‘aware’ of this, NRC reports.