Expatica news

Free buses, but train ticket prices rise

5 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — The start of 2004 saw Dutch rail operator NS introduce its traditional New Year’s train ticket price rise, but there was good news for commuters to The Hague with the launch of an experiment with free public transport on Monday.

The province of South Holland is financing the EUR 1 million experiment, which will allow commuters to travel for free on two bus routes to and from the centre of The Hague over a 12 month period, news agency ANP reported.

The scheme was officially launched at the Transferium ‘t Schouw along the A44 motorway near Leiden on Monday. The two routes are line 88 (which operates between The Hague and Oegstgeest) and route 95 (operating between The Hague and both Noordwijk and Katwijk).

The aim of the project is to reduce traffic congestion around the cities of The Hague and Leiden and will be declared a success if 5 percent of motorists opt to travel by bus instead of car. The buses will operate on a frequent basis, allowing motorists to escape from traffic jams.  

The experiment was agreed on in principle last April and received final approval from the provincial government on 15 December.

But bus company Connexxion said the experiment should not be compared with the system of free public transport in the Belgium city of Hasselt, which has been operating since 1997. The Dutch trial presents the bus as an alternative to car use and parking is available at the Transferium.

Amsterdam Council decided last year against introducing a test with free public transport, while a planned experiment in the southern city of Eindhoven will not go ahead either.

Meanwhile, Dutch rail NS has announced that train tickets increased by an average of 4 percent on 1 January, the annual NS price rise, and a company spokesman warned that tickets could increase in price again later this year.

The NS is allowed to increase prices twice per year if it meets punctuality targets. The NS agreed last year with consumer watchdog Consumentenbond and travellers group Rover that it may increase prices by 2.075 percent if it achieves an 84.4 percent punctuality target over a period of 12 months.

But Rover has questioned whether the NS will meet the punctuality target this year, saying that it needs to be seen to be believed. It is also concerned by rumours that trains are not stopping at scheduled stations in order to meet punctuality demands and confirmed that several complaints have already been submitted.

The NS remains optimistic over its punctuality. After the disaster year of 2001 when just 79.9 trains travelled on time, punctuality rose to 83.1 percent in 2003. The NS is also introducing new trains this year to reduce delays due to problems with aging equipment.

It is also expects fewer problems in Autumn from fallen leaves — which make rail tracks slippery, damaging wheels when train engineers apply brakes — due to a variety of measures. But the rail operator refused to forecast when it would meet the punctuality target.

The NS has suffered financially in recent times, reporting a loss of EUR 20 million in the first six months of last year, coming on top of a EUR 69 million loss in 2002.  Train ticket prices rises are considered an integral part of the rail operator’s efforts to achieve profitability.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + public transport