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Railwatch 076 - July 1998

Tracking down our allies

RDS members sampled modern, efficient Dutch Railways during a visit in April.

After travelling by Eurostar, they stayed in Utrecht for four days, making trips to Groningen and Maastricht.

The city of Utrecht itself has much of interest for public transport campaigner and general tourist alike.

In 1983 a new light rail system, the Sneltram, was opened to serve two new towns, Nieuwegein and Ijsselstein.

We were whisked at considerable speed along reserved track out to the new suburbs on board a two-car articulated train (or is it a tram?) from the bus/tram/taxi interchange at Central station.

New places of work and entertainment, colleges, a hospital and shopping centres are strategically sited next to its stations. This is public transport as it should be.

Our journey on the Sneltram was paid for by cancelling five of the 15 sections of a Strippenkaart. For about £3.50, this ticket is valid on trams and local buses throughout the country, and it all helps to make the use of public transport easy.

Among highlights of our trip were two evenings spent with members of the Vereniging Reizigers Openbaar Vervoer (ROVER) - the Dutch organisation for public transport users. A national telephone number can be called for information about all public transport throughout the Netherlands.

The internet can show you how to get from your home to any address in the country by means of transport other than the car.

A reduction card costing about £30 a year gives you a discount of 40 per cent on all off-peak train journeys.

Many workers receive subsidies for commuting from employers.

The trains are well used and much has been done in the Randstad (the heavily populated area including Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) to increase rail capacity.

Reopenings are planned particularly to improve cross-border rail links to Germany.

But there are problems. The government intends to franchise unprofitable local lines leaving inter-city services with NS, which is now a state-owned company.

The private Lovers Rail does not have a franchise but is allowed to run on some routes. Lovers is owned by the French CGE conglomerate which also owns Connex in Britain.

ROVER, like RDS, lobbies politicians, although the 150 Dutch MPs do not have geographical constituencies.

In many respects, however, ROVER is comparable to RDS, with one salaried employee, a quality magazine and most of its income from subscriptions.

It offers a travel information and advice service to members, and that is something that we could develop.

ROVER involves itself in all forms of public transport but not freight. It has one employee for three days a week and volunteers provide members with information on foreign rail travel.

It has also established contacts with Pro-Bahn in Germany and BTTB in Flanders.

n For a full report of the discussions with our Dutch counterparts - who all spoke excellent English - send £1.50 to Bill Collins, 8a Moorland Road, Mickleover, Derby DE3 5FX.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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