Minister under fire in rail timetable crisis debate

MPs are to hold an emergency debate on the new Dutch Rail (NS) timetable, after transport minister Melanie Schultz said it was too late to cut journey times to the north and east of the country. The minister, who goes on maternity leave on Monday and is stepping down at the general election, has approved the new timetable, which increases journey times for some passengers by 10 minutes, without consulting parliament. MPs are also critical of the way the busy commutor Amsterdam to Utrecht service has been revamped.

MPs described Schultz’s decision to approve the timetable as ‘extremely serious’. The current minority cabinet had agreed not to take controversial decisions during the summer recess.
Schultz told MPs her hands were tied because NS needed to start its preparations on August 15. Furthermore, she said, the new timetable was a good thing because delays would be reduced, average journey times cut and passengers would have to change trains less.
MPs have demanded prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende clarify the minister’s role. That debate will take place either on Friday or next week.

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