Dutch and Belgians break HSL deadlock

11th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands and Belgium have reached an agreement over travel times and stops on the HSL high-speed train line between Amsterdam and Brussels.

11 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands and Belgium have reached an agreement over travel times and stops on the HSL high-speed train line between Amsterdam and Brussels.

Dutch Transport Minister Karla Peijs was expected to release definite details of the accord later on Friday, but Belgian media reported that the HSL train will stop in Breda and The Hague in the Netherlands.

Belgium was initially opposed to the two stops because it would also need to finance them, despite the fact its own rail system faces cutbacks. The Netherlands was in favour of the stops. 

An accord on the HSL line was made possible by a Dutch Cabinet decision on Friday to deepen the Westerschelde inlet for shipping. The project is of great importance to Antwerp port. Belgium and the Netherlands have discussed the matter for years and there was relief in Brussels that a decision had finally be taken.

Travel time on the HSL line was to initially take one hour and 33 minutes. But the Belgian government unexpectedly decided against building a new railway line between Antwerp and Brussels, adding 15 minutes onto the journey, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

The longer travel time was expected to result in fewer travellers and higher staff and equipment costs. Dutch train company HSA — made up of Dutch rail NS and airline KLM — threatened Minister Peijs with a damages claim.

The Dutch minister subsequently held several secret meetings with Belgian Public Enterprise Minister Johan Vande Lanotte aimed at improving travel times by adjusting the timetabling. The delay was reduced several weeks ago to between seven and eight minutes.

But Vande Lanotte — who announced on Belgian radio on Friday that a deal had been reached — had also threatened to not let any high-speed trains travel between Breda and Brussels/Antwerp, claiming that it would be too expensive.

This came despite the fact that the Netherlands had already constructed a high-speed rail track at Breda. The Dutch had also paid NLG 800 million to Belgium to have the HSL line run via Breda rather than the Dutch city of Roosendaal.

The Dutch Lower House of Parliament was enraged by Belgium's stance and wanted to freeze all negotiations with the Belgian government and delay the decision on deepening of the Westerschelde inlet.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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