Potentially disastrous collapse bridge was 'days away', say experts


The Merwede bridge on the A27 between Gorinchem and Sleeuwijk was days away from collapsing in a potential repeat of the Morandi bridge disaster, experts told current affairs programme EenVandaag. Delft University professors Rob Nijsse and Ben Ale based their conclusions on a report on the state of the bridge by advisory agency Berenschot. In October 2016 the Merwede bridge was suddenly closed to heavy traffic because the bridge structural supports were found to have hairline fractures. ‘That means the bridge is a write-off and that it is a miracle it is still standing,' Ale told EenVandaag. In December the bridge was deemed safe enough to allow heavy traffic to use it again. Ale said the Netherlands escaped a disaster on the scale of the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genua in Italy last year which killed 43 people, and that the bridge was just six days away from giving way. The report calls into question the quality of safety controls of bridges in the Netherland, Ale told EenVandaag. ‘Perhaps sometimes a fatal accident is necessary to get the message across,’ he said.  More >



Too many tourists spoil the fun: locals

Popular Dutch attractions like the Zaanse Schans windmill village and the Keukenhof tulip gardens are being overrun by tourists and locals are clamouring for ways to combat the crowds, the Telegraaf reported on Tuesday. Better ways of regulating visits via online reservations and increasing the attractiveness of other places in the region would help relieve the pressure on the most popular attractions, Jos Vranken, director of tourism organisation NBTC told the paper. The number of Dutch and foreign visitors is projected to grow 50% to over 60 million in 2030, with Amsterdam seeing an increase from 19 million to 30 million tourists. Car park People living in the Zaanse Schans windmill village north of Amsterdam have now come out against proposals by the local council to build a car park and charge entrance fees. ‘We have problems with parking, that is true. But all the council wants is to make money. (..) We don’t need extra tourists. It has to be fun to come here and not to stand in a queue to visit the shops,’ shopkeeper’s association spokesman Marc van Dorth said. Fence Tourism can’t be regulated at the Zaanse Schans precisely because it is a public area, Piet Oudega, chairman of the Zaanse Schans association told the paper. ‘We don’t want to put a fence around it either but according to our calculations the number of tourist has gone up to 2.3 million,' he said. 'And that means we have to find a new system, perhaps one where we keep the area accessible but ask people to pay to visit a mill.’ In November last year millers living in the village of Kinderdijk protested at being swamped by the huge numbers of tourists. The mills attract some 600,000 visitors a year. Amsterdam Amsterdam too is under pressure to reduce the number of tourists in the city centre. An increase in tourist tax, further measures to reduce holiday rentals via online agencies like Airbnb and efforts to encourage people to visit other parts of the city are all part of the strategy to spread tourists city-wide. One of Amsterdam’s most photographed tourist attractions, the red and white Iamsterdam letters, were removed from their usual position in front of the Rijksmuseum in December. The decision to remove the letters, which have been a popular draw with tourists for 14 years, was taken by the left-wing green party GroenLinks, who say the slogan had become a symbol for mass tourism.  More >



Unknown singer gets Dutch Eurovision vote

A relatively unknown singer songwriter will represent the Netherlands at this year's European Song Contest in May in Tel Aviv Duncan Laurence, who reached the semi-finals of the Voice of Holland competition in 2014, is a strategic choice because he will be easier to steer, song contest experts told broadcaster NOS. 'It will be useful if he does what he is told to do and is relatively uncritical,' NOS reporter Martijn van der Zande said. Last year's entrant Waylon irritated the contest selection committee by demanding to choose the song and went on to pick fights with the press. Laurence, 24, said on Instagram that 'you don't need to be a big star to win on a big stage'. 'Over the past few years, top names have represented the Netherlands,' he said. 'I am not one, but that is what is great - there is a lot of young musical talent in the Netherlands.' Ilse DeLange, who coached Laurence in the Voice of Holland and was half of the Common Linnets at Eurovision in 2014, reportedly tipped off the selection committee. 'Duncan is very special,' she said. 'He writes international songs with a great deal of authenticity.' Selection committee member Eric van Stade said they were 'blown away' by Laurence's song. 'It was so powerful we were unanimous in our choice,' he said. The song will be revealed in March.   More >


Dutch teen faces 4 years in Spanish jail

Statue of justice. The Spanish public prosecutor is demanding a four-year jail sentence and a one year supervision order for a 17-year-old Dutch teenager accused of sexually assaulting two British girls, public broadcaster NOS reports. Charly T, who has been in a Spanish prison for the last five months, allegedly molested the girls, aged 12 and 14, when they met at the pool of a holiday resort on the Costa del Sol on the morning both he and the girls were leaving. The three of them finished a bottle of vodka between them after which they engaged in sexual activity. Shortly after, the youth was arrested for sexually assaulting two minors using violence and intimidation, NOS reports. NOS says there were no witnesses to the alleged events and police did not carry out a search. Minute amounts of the youth’s dna were found on the 12-year-old’s thigh. NOS has footage in which the inebriated girls are making a statement to police with only the 12 year-old directly accusing T. Unsafe PrisonLaw, an organisation which supports prisoners abroad said a conviction resulting from a trial, for which no date has been set, would be unsafe because there were no official interpreters present during the police investigation, and questions were not translated correctly from Spanish into English during a court hearing. This ‘distorts the facts and has serious consequences for the defence’, the organisation claims. ‘This is about a minor on holiday who went on a date. The youngest girl liked Charly but he was not interested in her. In the end, it was she who accused him. The strange thing is that neither girl remembers anything,' PrisonLaw lawyer Rachel Imamkhan told NOS. Transfer MPs have urged foreign affairs minister Stef Blok to try to transfer the youth to the Netherlands. ‘It is an injustice for a minor to spend five months in a prison without a trial date in sight,’ CDA MP Martijn van Helvert told the broadcaster. Some 1,350 Dutch people end up in prisons abroad every year, of whom 200 are in Spain. Charly T is the only minor to be held in a Spanish cell, according to figures from the foreign ministry. The AD said last month that Spanish officials fear T would not return for an eventual trial if he is released.  More >



NS reduces train services due to snow

Dutch railway company NS is running fewer services on Tuesday to head off problems with the forecast snow, even though no more than three centimetres is expected. The first snow hit the south west of the country during the morning rush hour and the showers will move north and east as the day progresses. De eerste sneeuw is een feit in #Middelburg Code wit ;) pic.twitter.com/1DgFqT8gxw — Aart van Oosten (@yellow_flame) January 22, 2019 However, the KNMI weather bureau says the snow cover will only be between one and three centimetres thick in most places. It may be more in the east. 'Snow always leads to slippery conditions in places and you should be alert, but we should not exaggerate,' NOS weather forecaster Willemijn Hoebert said. 'We are not going to get snow storms or situations like we saw recently in Austria.' The transport ministry's road department has sent out 546 gritting lorries and 350 snow ploughs to keep the roads clear. Schiphol airport has also warned that some flights could be delayed or cancelled. Goedemorgen #nieuwveen, laat die #sneeuw maar komen pic.twitter.com/UqyLxfbJQm — Marianne van Eijk (@vaneijkie76) January 22, 2019   More >



First ice marathon on Monday night

Skating fanatics are being warned to stay away from the new ice forming on open water after three nights of heavy frost, because the ice is still unreliable. 'It is still too soon to skate on open water,' Carl Mureau, of the Dutch skating association KNSB, told website Nu.nl. 'We want everyone to enjoy skating, but safety is paramount. We don't want anyone to go through the ice or to be involved in other accidents.' The association has a special website section where skaters can find out which outdoor rinks are open and if open water ice is safe. Meanwhile, the first marathon on natural ice this winter will take place at the Haaksbergen outdoor rink in Twente. Water sprayed onto the club's concrete circuit has now frozen to a depth of four to five centimetres, making it possible to organise the competition. Haaksbergen krijgt de primeur! Vanavond wordt de eerste marathon op natuurijs verreden. #meermarathonhttps://t.co/ItaJ9bGT9C pic.twitter.com/NWDEUujZEw — KNSB (@KNSB) January 21, 2019 There may be little opportunity for skating fans to skate outdoors. Frost will continue throughout the week but snowfall forecast for Tuesday is likely to hamper the growth of the ice. And daytime temperatures will rise as the week progresses, the KNMI weather bureau says. The snow will hit the west of the country around 8am on Tuesday and move slowly eastwards. Up to three centimetres of snow is forecast. Winter weather photos  More >