Fyra train hearings: Cooperation with Belgium was "disastrous"

Dutch officials and the Dutch railway company NS were poorly informed about the way of doing business in Belgium, which led to the cooperation with Belgium being "disastrous from day one". This is according to Arriën Kruyt, chairman of travelers association Rover, in the public hearing of the parliamentary committee of inquiry on the Fyra debacle today.

The public hearings on the matter started in the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, on Monday. NS bought the exploitation rights of the HSL-Zuid and bought high speed trains from Italian company AnsaldoBreda. But there were problems with the trains almost immediately and they disappeared from the tracks within a few weeks. NS blamed the manufacturer and brought the trains back. The committee of inquiry, chaired by Madeleine van Toorenburg of the CDA, now aims to find out exactly how the high-speed train that was intended to travel to Brussels went so wrong, NOS reports. According to Van Toorenburg, this debacle cost the Netherlands around 11 billion euros.

In the public hearing today, Kruyt said that the Belgians' business interest are essentially different and that cultural differences played a major role in what went wrong, Metro reports. According to the travelers association, HSA, the operator of HSL-Zuid, knew about the problems with the Fyra, but underestimated the impact. Denmark had already had problems with the Fyra trains.

Kruyt also stressed that Rover warned of the high rates late in 2012, just before the trains were put in operation. "With that the traveler would never be tempted to choose the train instead of the car or plane. But the pressure to start the Fyra, was too big", Kruyt said according to RTL. Kruyt also denounced the aloof attitude and lack of track knowledge at the Ministry of Transport.

Ralph Pans, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Transport from 1998 to 2002, also told the committee today that Transport Minister Tineke Netelenbos sent a personal letter to Prime Minister Wim Kok in 2000. This letter stated her resistance of the public tendering on the high speed line, AD reports. Netelenbos wanted to award it to a consortium of NS, KLM and Schiphol. But according to Pans, the then Prime Minister tore the letter up on the advice of his  highest official, who called the letter legally "deadly" as the Netherlands would have big problems if they deviated from their plans.

In the coming weeks a series of key players, including several former ministers, will speak in the public hearings about this debacle.