Public transit price hikes, service cuts looming next year
Public transit in the Netherlands will be facing difficult choices next year. The public transport companies have to make 500 million euros in cuts, and that can only be achieved by increasing prices or cutting back on services, the public transit companies and travelers' association Rover told newspaper AD.
The 2021 Budget has 740 million euros set aside for coronavirus support to public transit next year. But that is not enough, according to public transport interest organization OV-NL. That money only covers 93 percent of the costs, chairman Pedro Peters said to AD.
"That sounds like a lot, but it means that as public transport we have to cut back half a billion euros," Peters said. The options for these cuts are increasing prices, running more efficiently, or decreasing services. "That means that trains and buses will run less frequently or that bus lines will have to be discontinued or merged," he said. The system is already about as efficient as it gets, according to Peters. "Because the government contracts public transport, the companies hardly have any fat on their bones.
The companies are working with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management on a transition plan for 2021. "Politicians must tell how they want to maintain public transport. Painful choices are needed. With 93 percent revenue, you cannot keep running 100 percent," Peters said.
Travelers' association Rover is calling on the government not to be too hasty with cuts in public transport. "When there is a vaccine, the Dutch will go back to public transport," Saskia Kluit, who will soon be the new chairman of Rover, said to AD. Cuts once made, are difficult to reverse.
Trade union FNV has similar concerns. Before the pandemic, the forecast was for annual growth of 8 percent in public transport, Henri Janssen of FNV said to the newspaper. "Those numbers will come back one day and then you have to have the people," he said. Staff cuts now can cause major problems later. "One operator alone takes a year to train."