Wednesday 26 February 2020

Dutch students should take lessons outside rush hour to reduce train loads

Photo: Jonathan Marks

Photo: Jonathan Marks

Teaching institutions across the Netherlands are looking at changing their timetables so that students will be able to avoid the busy rush hour on trains, according to Roger van Boxtel, chief executive of rail operator NS.

Van Boxtel called yesterday for universities and businesses to become more flexible to ease the pressure on the network. He told Dutch newspaper AD that Utrecht’s hbo college is already giving lessons up to 7pm, while the universities of Utrecht, Groningen and Enschede are looking at the possibilities for changing their hours.

‘I have been to Nijmegen,’ he said. ‘Next week, I am going to Leiden University and I am going to talk to Amsterdam. This is really about the busiest hubs. But the universities of Groningen and Enschede have already said that they are flexible. This will really help in crowded trains.’

He expects new teaching timetables to be implemented from the beginning of the next academic year in September 2016. If Utrecht-based institutions can vary their hours, the AD said, this will make the most difference as almost all packed rush hour trains go to and from the city.

There are currently 650,000 students in the Netherlands with an OV travel card, and next year another 90,000 youngsters working towards vocational mbo qualifications will add to the total.

Marieke de Bakker, head of student guidance at Utrecht University said they are thinking of campaigns to tempt students to travel at off-peak times. ‘For example with a free cup of coffee outside rush hours or in the weekend, or travelling with extra discounts if you have a weekend OV,’ she told AD.

But Pijke Dorrestein, chairman of the Vidius student union, said students are not happy and are thinking about taking action. He pointed out that some desperately need the income from evening jobs as there is no longer a basic grant. ‘We are not as flexible as it seems,’ he told the paper.

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