Public transit strike: Train stations quiet, roads busy

An NS train waiting on the tracks (Photo: TahR78/Wikipedia)
An NS train waiting on the tracks (Photo: TahR78/Wikipedia)An NS train waiting on the tracks (Photo: TahR78/Wikipedia)

Employees of various sectors are striking for better pensions and to freeze the retirement age at 66 throughout the Netherlands on Monday. The first and most disrupting strike was in public transit between 6:00 a.m. and 7:06 a.m. During that time no NS trains were running, as well as no trams, subways and buses in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam.

Train stations were largely deserted during the first part of morning rush hour, according to AD and NOS. While the roads were somewhat busier than normal, according to the ANWB. 

A spokesperson for NS said on Sunday night that trains will not start running immediately after the strike, NOS reports. First personnel and equipment must be prepared to start the train traffic. For that reason the first train from Utrecht to Amsterdam will depart only at 7:48 a.m., for example, and the first train from Deventer to Hilversum at 8:33 a.m. "After that it will still take hours before the train traffic is in any way normal. The disruption of this action on travelers is enormous", the spokesperson said to the broadcaster.

The ANWB reported that it was somewhat busier than normal on the roads at around 7:00 a.m., with a total of 260 kilometers of traffic jams on Dutch roads. 

Public transit employees are not the only ones performing labor actions today. Emergency service workers are also protesting for better pension regulation. Employees of the police, fire department, Defense and ambulance, among others, will drive on the A2 and A28 highways from across the country to the Malieveld in The Hague at a speed of only 66 kilometers per hour. This action started at 7:00 a.m. and is expected to cause some traffic problems.

Schiphol employees working at check-in, among other places, will strike from 12:30 p.m. to 13:36 p.m. "Travelers might experience longer waiting times than usual", the airport said on Twitter. Employees of other sectors will be protesting at nine locations throughout the country, according to NOS. 

Most of these strikes have to do with freezing the retirement age at 66 years, which is why the public transit workers held their strike for a symbolic period of 66 minutes.. The trade unions came with this demand after negotiations between employers and the government on a new pension system failed at the end of last year. The government then decided to work on reforming the pension system itself, without input from the trade unions, according to NOS.