Fewer trains, buses as Covid absenteeism rises
NS will run fewer trains from February 7 because more and more employees are home sick with Covid-19 or in quarantine due to the coronavirus rules. Several other public transport companies are also adjusting their timetables due to increased absenteeism, resulting in fewer trains, buses, and subways throughout the country.
On NS routes that currently run six trains per hour, there will soon be four, NS reported. The rail company will reduce routes with four trains per hour to two trains. "By temporarily scaling down the timetable, we create more space to absorb the increasing reports of illness," said NS. "In this way, our timetable remains more predictable, and we hope that we will have to surprise travelers less often with sudden train cancellations. We also think it is important that our sick colleagues have the opportunity to recover."
NS assumes there will be occasional cancellations for the coming days because there may be fewer conductors and drivers to drive the trains and fewer mechanics to maintain them.
From February 7, NS will start scaling down its timetable in steps. This should be complete by February 21, from which time 85 percent of NS trains will run. NS already started running fewer trains at night and during rush hour to compensate for fewer passengers due to coronavirus restrictions. NS currently transports just over 40 percent of the usual number of travelers.
Connexxion, Arriva, NMBS, RET, and GVB, among others, are also scaling down, Gerrit Spijksma of umbrella organization OV-NL said to NOS. Most already scaled down early last year due to fewer travelers. "Now we are scaling down even further because of the shortage of personnel," Spijksma said. As the work from home advice still applies, he doesn't expect an increase in travelers any time soon.
Travelers' association Rover thinks NS is jumping the gun by already announcing it will run fewer trains in February. "The fact that fewer trains sometimes run due to illness and quarantine is force Majeure, but cutting into the train supply with a blunt ax in advance is a completely different story," Rover director Freek Bos said. "After 22 months of experience with the pandemic, NS should now be able to deal flexibly with staff loss."
The travelers' association points out that it is essential to run more trains where possible, to service the passengers returning to public transport. Rover wants NS to review daily whether the timetable should be scaled down, as is now the case when snow is forecast, for example.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.