26 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — Government ministers withheld a negative assessment from the Dutch Parliament of plans for a new high-speed railway line, it was claimed on Wednesday.
The Dutch government is to tender in 2005 for contractors to build the link between Schiphol Airport/Amsterdam via Almere to Groningen/Leeuwarden.
The 2001 report by the government’s macroeconomic think tank CPB warned that estimates of the jobs that would be created by the Zuiderzeelijn were inflated.
The report also claimed the new line — linking the north of the Netherlands with the Randstad (the main cities in the west) — would seriously damage nature, the landscape and cultural-historical sites, newspaper De Volkskrant said on Wednesday.
Despite this, ministers in Prime Minister Wim Kok’s coalition government decided to make EUR 2.7 billion (then NLG 6 billion) available for the project.
Environment Minister Jan Pronk and Transport Minister Tineke Netelenbos sent a report of the government’s decision to Parliament in December 2001 without mentioning the negative assessment by the CPB, the newspaper said.
Kok’s centre-left coalition was replaced by a centre-right coalition led by Christian Democrat CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende.
Balkenende’s second administration — which emerged from the election in January 2003 — has confirmed the previous coalition support for the rail link to the north.
The government support is based on positive analysis of the project by the Dutch Economic Institute (NEI).
The CPB report said in 2001 that the NEI assessment was “still plausible”, but warned the NEI had slightly over-estimated the benefits and underestimated the risks.
The CPB warned that the NEI incorrectly factored in the “added value” accruing from the Zuiderzeelijn, which it said would counteract the financial loss for society of EUR 1.5 billion for a conventional rail line. The NEI had also said a magnetic link could result in the equivalent of a EUR 8 billion loss for society.
Ministers have yet to decide whether to opt for a magnetically levitated train or a more conventional high-speed rail link.
The government will only choose the magnetic option if local businesses and regional governments agree to provide billions of euros for the construction costs.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news