Train safety system development prompts conflict
The new railway safety system under development has placed politicians, national railway company NS and railway operator ProRail on a collision course.
Volkskrant reports today that experts compare the issue to a problem of Fyra-like proportions. The new security system is supposed to come with new advantages and cost savings. A live screen in the operator’s cabin would make signage along the railway unnecessary and if the automated system had the impression that the operator was ignoring a signal, it would automatically initiate the train’s brakes.
And as the system would enable more trains to drive faster, expansion of the railway network would cost many millions less than it would cost with the current system.
The experts say however that the Ministry of Infrastructure is optimistic about how much the system will eventually cost, even while there are still a lot of technical problems unfixed. Apparently the system has not been tested enough, due to a conflict between NS and ProRail. Insufficient test drives have left uncertainty about how the system would behave under slippery weather circumstances.
NS and ProRail spokespeople deny that a “conflict” between their companies caused the problems with the tests. They say the problem has a technical nature.
More tests are necessary, and according to the reports these are expected to drive up the costs of the safety system, from €2 to anywhere between €5 to €8 billion.
The experts say the Ministry of Infrastructure has been informed of the problems, but they claim to have been given a gag-order and were not allowed to express their concerns to the Second Chamber.
State Secretary Wilma Mansveld’s spokesperson admitted that the Second Chamber has not been informed yet, but that this was scheduled to happen as soon as all tests have been carried out. Second Chamber member Stientje van Veldhoven (D66) has called the higher price tag an “unpleasant surprise” that she wants Mansveld to give a clear explanation for.
“It seems that information was withheld, that should not have been. The Chamber needs to be informed properly, to prevent new problems with the tendering of new railway infrastructure. If the costs are 3 to 5 billion euros higher, the Chamber should know that,” Van Veldhoven said.