Groups of people showed up at Central Station in Amsterdam to learn their train was cancelled (Photo: Zack Newmark) - Credit: Groups of people showed up at Central Station in Amsterdam to learn their train was cancelled (Photo: Zack Newmark)
Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 16:10
Train cancellations soar as infrastructure problems take hold
Problems with railroad infrastructure caused a sharp spike in the number of train cancellations last year. Issues ranging from signal errors to switch point failures caused 32,899 scrapped train journeys in 2013, an increase of more than 46 percent, website Treinreiziger.nl reported based on figures from Dutch railway NS. The worst stretch of railway was along the Rotterdam - Gouda corridor, with 2,501 cancelled journeys last year. This year, overcrowded trains have been a substantial problem, with rail passenger advocacy group Rover calling it the worst it has ever been. Major faults can often cause large numbers of trains to be cancelled, like a lightening strike at a power circuit in Santpoort, Noord-Holland in March 2014 that forced 961 trains to be cancelled. A switch point failure caused a train derailment in Hilversum two months earlier that wiped 887 trains from the schedule, the website said. The Dutch Safety Board's investigation into the derailment concluded that it was caused by poor maintenance. Railroad maintenance firm ProRail responded that infrastructure is not the only cause of train failures, saying that about 36 percent of the issues last year were not related to infrastructure. Instead, ProRail argues that the number of infrastructure-related cancellations is actually falling. ProRail made headlines last week for allegations of financial mismanagement, and a pledge from the new infrastructure secretary, Sharon Dijksma, to clean house. Meanwhile, the NS stressed that the number of cancellations should only be considered an indicator, and are not totally accurate figures. The numbers are based on input from rail managers who sometimes make errors in their notations while under time pressure, or whose initial decisions are later changed. The NS blamed the increase on stricter safety requirements which often force repairs to be conducted overnight for longer stretches of time than if repairs were done during the day, when more trains are running.