Transit strike leaves train stations largely deserted, except for confused tourists

A Red Cross volunteer explaining a nationwide public transit strike to tourists at a largely deserted Amsterdam Central Station, 28 May 2019
A Red Cross volunteer explaining a nationwide public transit strike to tourists at a largely deserted Amsterdam Central Station, 28 May 2019. (Photo: Politie)

The public transit strike left train stations throughout the Netherlands largely deserted on Tuesday morning. People gathered in the stations were largely tourists who did not know about the strike.

Tourists Rachel, Angie, and Acqua were caught by surprise when they arrived at Amsterdam Central Station. They have a hotel booked in Rotterdam. A volunteer from Red Cross explained the strike to them.

"We don't really have time to talk because we have no idea how to get to Rotterdam", Rachel said to NL Times. "We didn't know about it", Acqua added. "So now we're really..." She trailed off, scrunching up her face to show frustration. They decided to walk down the street into the city center to see if a tour operator could them to the second largest city in the Netherlands.

The Red Cross deployed volunteers to the large Dutch train stations, because the organization wasn't sure if the NS information desks would be open. They haven't had much to do at Amsterdam Central Station so far, one volunteer said to NU.nl. "But the people are very indignant when they hear that no trains are running."

Passengers at Amsterdam Central Station's international train customer service desks told NL times that they had no idea about the strike. Several dozen people were waiting to find out their options. Many were told they have to take a bus to the German border and then catch a train to Berlin. They said they did not receive any notifications telling them about the strike.

Claire and Jan are two American tourists who arrived on a Viking cruise ship today. They booked Thalys train tickets to Paris months ago, but received no email informing them of the strike. They said they emailed Thalys customer service in advance of their trip, and the company never replied. Viking told them they would face delays at the train station, but the international trains were running.
"They aren't running and nobody here is helping. They're just saying, 'The trains aren't running'." Claire said to NL Times. "And now we have to spend a fortune on a rental car", she said, noting they were booked at hotel in the French capital.

Several shop managers at the Amsterdam station said that business was dreadfully slow because of the strike. Though one barista noted that she was happy she could bike from her home in Amsterdam Noord through the IJtunnel. 

Two Americans who arrived at Schiphol today from Berlin said the airport train station was "really busy." They said they were repeatedly asked if they wanted to split a taxi with other passengers who were trying to get to Rotterdam and other parts of Amsterdam. A limited number of trains are running between Schiphol and Amsterdam Central Station during the strike. A court ordered the unions to allow this train traffic, to prevent chaotic situations at the airport. 

Taxi drivers are doing steady business thanks to the strike. One Uber driver told NU.nl that tariffs were around 2.5 times higher than usual on Tuesday. The Uber app quoted a price between 100 and 135 euros to ride from Amsterdam Central Station to Markthal in Rotterdam after rush hour ended on Tuesday.

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