Experts say new rail safety system trials failing, cost underestimated

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The development of a new safety system for the Dutch railways threatens to turn into a fiasco partly because of a conflict between service company NS and track operator ProRail, experts have told the Volkskrant.

In particular, trials of the new system have shown there are technical problems and the transport ministry is far too optimistic about the costs, the sources say.

The Volkskrant says the ministry is aware of the problems but did not raise them at last week's confidential briefing to MPs. In addition, it claims experts working for the company running the trials have been banned from talking about the issues.


On paper, the new European security system ERTMS has many advantages and would do away with the need for trackside signals. Warnings would be displayed on an on-board computer screen and if a driver appeared to be ignoring them, the train would brake automatically.

The hope is that the system will allow more trains at higher speeds on the overcrowded Dutch railway network.


‘But there are major risks attached to introducing the system nationwide,' one expert told the paper. For example, the system is still being developed and has never been tested successfully on a busy rail network.

The experts are also sceptical about the €2bn set aside to pay for the introduction. They expect the project will cost €5bn to €8bn - money which the ministry does not have.

A third issue is the relationship between the NS and ProRail, both of which are 100% state-owned. A dispute between the two companies about other issues means far fewer trials have been carried out using NS trains.


2 Comments To This Article

  • Jonathan Marks posted:

    on 21st January 2014, 13:24:32 - Reply

    As a NS watcher and reluctant rail user, this development is frightening. The rows between NS and ProRail show a fundamental disagreement in strategy which is harming everyone. Fyra and other fiascos means someone has to step in. And how can the long-suffering public get a voice in the decision-making? We're paying for their mistakes. Expatica needs to step up the pressure - or partner with an organisation that is already active.
  • Bruce posted:

    on 21st January 2014, 08:36:20 - Reply

    Cost underestimated. Who'd have believed that!!