MPs say no to competition on the railways, fear services will worsen

Photo: Jonathan Marks
Photo: Jonathan Marks

MPs from across the political spectrum have said they do not back European Commission wishes to allow more competition on the Dutch railway networks because they fear a worse service for travellers.

Under EU rules, other companies should be offered the opportunity to provide mainline services, as well as night trains and cross border connections.

‘Our complex network is not suitable for major privatisation,’ CDA MP Harry van der Molen said during Tuesday’s debate. The VVD is the only party which thinks injecting more market forces into the system will improve performance.

Both MPs and the cabinet want to continue awarding the mainline concession to the NS, which is 100% state owned. The new concession period is due to run from 2025 to 2035.

Junior infrastructure minister Vivianne Heijnen told MPs during the debate that European Commission has ‘questions’ about the size of the network which will be given to the NS and wants the Netherlands to carry out a market analysis first.

Without doing so, there is a strong likelihood that the NS could eventually lose some of its current routing, she said. ‘I am still in talks with Brussels and we have little room to manoeuvre without a market analysis,’ she told MPs. ‘It is a real risk.’

Some other companies are already operating regional services in the Netherlands, such as Arriva and Qbuzz.

MPs are also concerned that allowing more competition on routes to London, Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt could damage NS’s international operations. Heijnen said last month that she was considering opening up high speed international connections to other companies.

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