Dutch state-owned railway company NS will lose its sole rights to operate international services but will be given the green light to introduce higher rush hour ticket prices, sources close to the negotiations have told the Volkskrant.
Ministers and NS officials have been in talks for months about the next concession to run the country’s railway network, most of which is still in state hands. The current main concession ends in 2024, with the next operating from 2025 to 2033.
The most controversial aspect of the new contract is permission to raise ticket prices for rush hour travellers, something which chief executive Wouter Koolmees has been urging for some time.
He says higher prices in the morning would help spread travel outside peak periods, when occupancy rates are around 30%.
Passenger organisations earlier reacted angrily to the plan, pointing out that many people have no choice but to travel to work in the early morning. So far, there are no details about how the rush hour supplement would work in practice.
The new plans will also allow other railway companies to operate cross-border services, apart from on the Brussels route, the Volkskrant said. Several other groups have already put forward proposals to run sleeper and other services to Brussels, Paris and Berlin.
This is being seen as a concession to Brussels, which has called for more competition on the Dutch railways.
Ministers have also agreed that train tickets, which normally rise in line with inflation, can be increased by inflation plus 7% in 2024, the paper said.
In addition, the government is scrapping the €80 million a year fee that the railway company pays to operate its services. Instead, the company will be given a grant of €13 million a year to help cover its losses.
NS said earlier this week it had posted a first-half loss and that passenger numbers are still down considerably on pre-pandemic levels.
Public transport minister Vivianne Heijnen has pledged to send the finalised agreement to parliament by the end of August.
Last November, MPs from across the political spectrum 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.
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation