Dutch MPs favour tighter control of rail infrastructure

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Responsibility for the privatised Dutch rail infrastructure should be returned to the government, according to a majority in the Lower House.

Wednesday's edition of the daily  reports that a proposal to bring track, signals and safety systems under government control is receiving wide support following a fire which crippled the country's train network at the weekend.

Christian Union MP Arie Slob, who launched the proposal, told reporters that Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz should have a greater say in the way the national rail network was being run. The body currently responsible, semi-private Prorail, is too far removed from the political decisionmakers, according to Mr Slob.

Stranded A fire last Friday in a central switchroom at Utrecht, which forms the hub of the national train system, caused severe disruptions, with thousands of train travellers stranded in trains between stations and many trains cancelled until early on Sunday.

Freemarket liberal MP Charlie Aptroot, of the governing VVD party, agreed. He reminded of earlier problems which Prorail failed to prevent, such as the chaos caused every winter when the first snow falls and equipment freezes up, essential computerised safety systems without a backup, and what he calls the "absurd salary demands" of Prorail directors.

Not all parties favour ministerial control of Prorail, though. Pro-government Freedom Party MP Richard de Mos said that his party wants "small government", quite the opposite of bringing the rail authority under the ministry's wing.

No proposals have been presented to the Lower House yet, the first opportunity being the debate on the 2011 Infrastructure budget next month.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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