The transport ministry sat on a highly critical report about rail operator ProRail for seven months, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.
The paper used freedom of information legislation to access the transport inspectors’ report, which states ProRail has accepted such cheap tenders for rail maintenance that extra delays and accidents may be inevitable.
The report’s findings are in line with a briefing sent by rail maintenance company Strukton to parliament in November, the paper points out. At the time, junior transport minister Wilma Mansveld said the letter was ‘without foundation and premature’.
A spokesman for Mansveld told the Volkskrant the report had been kept secret because ProRail had promised to make improvements and take action to stem the downward price spiral.
The minister later told parliament ‘it would have been better’ if the report had been made public earlier.
According to Strukton director Diederik Schonebaum, those efforts resulted in failure. ‘Someone needs to bang their fists on the table,’ he said. ‘If they do we will not have to hold a parliamentary inquiry in 10 years to find out why there are so many delays and accidents on the railways.’
Opposition MPs have also demanded clarity from the minister.
‘I am totally surprised the minister acted as if nothing was wrong when parliament recently asked her about problems on the railways,’ CDA MP Sander de Rouwe told the Volkskrant. ‘I cannot reconcile her laconic attitude with the hefty criticism in this crisis report.’
The Dutch railway network is owned by the state, with NS responsible for passenger services and ProRail for the tracks. Strukton used to be owned by the NS but is now in private hands.
Current transport minister Melanie Schultz was responsible for the railways until the new government took office at the beginning of November and the job was switched to her deputy.
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