Snow causes few problems but record jams, Rotterdam airport reopens

Tailbacks in Tuesday's evening rush hour had stretched to a record 2,300 kilometres by 17.30 because of the snow, the ANWB motoring organisation said. Earlier indications suggested the snow had caused few problems on the roads. The tailbacks were due to slow moving vehicles rather than accidents. On motorways in the Netherlands, if the average speed slips below 50 kph, it is counted as a jam, broadcaster NOS said. In many places drivers were moving at no faster than 30 kph. The problems were particularly acute around Eindhoven and Maastricht. The transport ministry’s roads department has been out in force to keep roads clear. According to one estimate 6.3 million kilos of salt were spread on the roads on Tuesday. The department also upped the estimated snowfall from a maximum of three to five centimetres over much of the country. Rotterdam The Hague Airport reopened to air traffic early on Tuesday afternoon after a closure of several hours due to the snow. Disruption elsewhere has been minimal. No flights were cancelled at Schiphol and delays have been kept to a minimum, a spokesman said. The NS has been running a reduced train service all day because of the snow. This gives the company the space on the tracks to deal with any eventual problems, a spokeswoman said following claims it had over-reacted. The KNMI weather bureau says more light snow could fall in some places on Wednesday and it will remain cloudy, with temperatures between zero and three degrees.  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 >

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 >

Consumer confidence drops eight points

The Dutch consumer confidence index has fallen for the sixth month in a row, and January's dip is the biggest in seven years, the national statistics agency CBS said on Tuesday. Consumers have both more doubts about the economic climate in general and are less willing to spend money, the CBS said. The index has fallen by eight points to 1 this month, compared with a highest ever standing of 36 in January 2000. The index fell to as low as -41 in 2013. The CBS also said on Tuesday that consumer spending rose 2% in November, compared with the year earlier period. In particular, spending rose on durable goods - mainly closing and household apparatus.   More >

TomTom sells Telematics unit for €910m

Navigation system maker TomTom has sold its Telematics division to Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone for €910m. TomTom put the unit up for sale in September and says the majority of the proceeds will be returned to its shareholders via a capital repayment. The decision to sell the unit was made after a 'thorough review of strategic options' TomTom chief executive Harold Goddijn said. Telematics is responsible for around 20% of company turnover, the Financieele Dagblad reported. 'We will continue to invest in our innovative map-making system, enabling faster map updates while lowering operational costs, paving the road towards autonomous driving,' Goddijn said. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, consultation with employee representative bodies and the approval of TomTom’s shareholders.   More >