NS scraps group discounts, bans bikes in trains as it prepares for more travelers

NS train at Amsterdam Central Station
NS train at Amsterdam Central StationjovannigDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

From Tuesday, NS will no longer allow bicycles on the train. The company is also scrapping group discounts, in an effort to keep trains as available as possible for necessary trips. On Wednesday the government announced a step-by-step plan to relax the intelligent lockdown the Netherlands is in due to the coronavirus. From June 1, trains can run according to their normal schedule, provided that the occupancy is below 40 percent and everyone wears a mask, RTL Nieuws and NU.nl report.

According to RTL, people who use an adapted bicycle as an aid, for example people with mobility problems, will still be allowed to take their bike on the train. NS stressed that there are alternatives, such as making use of bike sharing. 

The government made wearing a mouth mask on public transport mandatory, because it is not always possible to stay 1.5 meters apart on a train or bus. This concerns non-medical mouth masks. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday that the scientific evidence for the usefulness of non-medical masks is thin. "But the correct use - and I stress the correct use - of mouth masks shows a limited positive effect. It is mainly to ensure that you are not the one who infects others," he said.

Rutte added that everyone will have to make or buy their own masks. Public transit users who do not wear a mask will be fined. Public transit workers also have to wear a mask or a so-called splash guard. Public transit workers will be able to get a coronavirus test if they have symptoms, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said, according to NU.nl. 

The public transport companies are facing a "huge logistics task", Rutte said. Capacity needs to be increased to allow for a better distribution of travelers. Buses, trams and trains must also be set up in such a way that only 40 percent of the capacity is available. 

The Prime Minister appealed to Netherlands residents to only travel, both on public transit and on the roads, if it is absolutely necessary. "Do not go to the beach by tram on a nice day. Do not travel unnecessarily and if possible, travel outside rush hour. And go on foot or by bike if possible, cycling is very healthy."