16 December 2003
AMSTERDAM — In a bid to win back commuters, Dutch rail operator NS is considering the introduction of luxury peak-hour trains, which will have priority over normal trains when problems occur on the railway network.
An NS spokesman said the proposal was at an early stage and that the feasibility of the project still needed to be examined, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.
Confronted with a continued decline in passenger numbers and expected ongoing annual losses on top of the EUR 69 million loss in 2002, NS has announced plans to cut almost 1,500 jobs between 2004-08.
It has also come up with several ideas to improve the results of its passenger travel division, NS-Reizigers, including the luxury peak-hour trains.
The NS is also considering the introduction of a nightly “lounge train” with music and a luxury connection between Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam.
Tickets for the special trains will cost more than those for a normal train.
Travellers association Rover said it was surprised by the plans and that the idea of priority trains was not feasible. “Arriving on time is not a luxury, but a basic quality of rail transport,” it said.
Rover said it also feared that normal trains would encounter extra delays if the NS introduced its more expensive peak-hour trains.
It said NS did not have the capacity to introduce more trains and is concerned that the rail operator will reduce the number of its normal trains to introduce its luxury peak-hour trains.
The NS has come under fire in recent years for ongoing delays and train cancellations. The situation escalated in 2001 when strikes and repeated delays led to a change in NS management.
The rail operator promised it would not increase prices in 2002, but was loudly condemned when it raised prices on 31 December last year and planned a second price rise mid-2003. Parliamentary pressure eventually led to the NS being forced to back down.
But an agreement with consumer groups earlier this year means that prices may increase by 2.075 percent if the NS meets an 84.4 percent punctuality target.
And to offset the rising tax the government impose on the use of infrastructure, the NS has announced plans to increase the cost of train tickets by 4 percent next year. But the price rise will not be enough in itself to earn a profit.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news