Dutch govt, train company rapped in high-speed rail row

28th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch parliamentary inquiry Wednesday sharply criticised the government and national railways for failing to put passengers first in a debacle over a short-lived high-speed rail link.

Infrastructure Minister Wilma Mansveld swiftly resigned only hours after the publication of the inquiry into the spectacular collapse of a planned new Brussels-to-Amsterdam-link.

At least 19 Fyra trains, supplied by Italian train builder AnsaldoBreda at a cost of some 20 million euros each, were meant to rival the high-speed link between the two capitals already provided by Thalys, a joint Belgian-French-Dutch-German venture.

When the link began to be put into operation by Dutch rail (NS) and its Belgian partner SNCB in December 2012, the line was also supposed to replace slower trains operated by NS between the two cities.

At the time, the SNCB said a probe had shown that the V250, the Fyra's official name, was "completely unreliable" with reports of bad software and train parts falling off.

NS pulled the plug on the project barely five months later after a raft of technical malfunctions and problems delayed departures.

Without any proper system or alternative in place other than the Thalys, the government and NS "let down the passengers," the inquiry said Wednesday.

"Other interests than those of the passengers were systematically prioritised," it added.

"The state attached greatest importance to financial interests, while the NS wanted above all to protect its monopoly over the Dutch rail network."

The parliamentary inquiry found "NS should have and could have spotted the problems with the Fyra during its construction and when the trains were delivered."

Testing of the carriages was not properly carried out and the certifying body "blindly trusted" the company charged by AnsaldoBreda with doing the tests.

The trains had been ordered by NS and its Belgian counterpart SNCB.

But the companies cancelled the remaining order after the first problems surfaced, and launched a long legal process against AnsaldoBreda for compensation.

The report also criticised the Dutch government, which steamed ahead with plans for a high-speed link in 1996 "without fixing concrete goals or reaching agreements."

One of the government's main aims had been to recover as quickly as possible some 1.8 billion euros out of the 11 billion spent on installing the rail lines to carry the trains, the report regretted.

© 2015 AFP

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