Foreign taxpayers are ‘bailing out’ Dutch public transport firms

Bus and train company Syntus, which operates services around Arnhem, posted a loss of €5m in 2011 and is in financial trouble, according to media reports on Thursday.

‘The situation is not rose-coloured but we are not about to go bankrupt,’ a spokesman told news agency ANP. ‘We are working on an improvement programme so we can stabilise the company. Our shareholders have confidence in us.’
Syntus is a 50:50 joint venture between Dutch state-owned railway group NS and Keolis, which in turn is 45% owned by French state railway group SNCF.
Foreign firms
According to Nos television, Syntus’ problems are not unique, and almost all transport companies are losing money. It is hard to determine how much because most of them are part of German and French firms which don’t publish separate figures for their international operations.
In 2010, Connexxion’s holding company made a loss of €44m, Veolia lost €1m and Qbuzz €5m, Nos says.
Railway industry researcher Winand Veeneman from Delft University says public transport firms have been hit by higher costs once they have won a contract.
‘If you make a loss as a Dutch public transport company, you will eventually go bankrupt unless you can bring in more money, and in these cases that extra cash comes from French and German taxpayers,’ he told Nos.
Connexxion and Veolia are in the hands of French consortium Veoliatransdev which is 50% owned by France’s state-owned Caisse des Dépôts. Arriva is owned by German state railway firm Deutsche Bahn. Dutch railway group NS has a 49% stake in Qbuzz. NS is still 100% owned by the Dutch state.
Some 30 rail routes in the Netherlands are operated by third parties.

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