NS staff shortage: hundreds of extra employees will be on trains to relieve workload of conductors
Additional office staff and temporarily hired security personnel are expected to make NS more visible on trains again in April. During the month, hundreds of additional employees will ride the trains to relieve the conductors. Passengers will notice, as they will more often see someone walking by wearing an NS jacket, a spokesperson said.
The rail company has found 250 of its own office workers willing to work two days a month for a year as so-called train conductors. They are not authorized to check tickets, but they can answer passengers' questions. And especially on long trains, they are an important extra pair of eyes when closing the doors. It's a job that a conductor alone can't really do.
CEO Wouter Koolmees of NS admitted at the presentation of the annual figures in February that NS shortchanged passengers last year. According to him, the company was caught off guard by the rapidly increasing shortage of conductors and drivers, due to the compression of the timetable and the increasing absence of staff, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, NS sometimes had to cancel train rides. Trains were also shortened, but this resulted in heavy rush-hour traffic on some routes.
At the same time, pressure increased on an ever-shrinking group of conductors and drivers. In December, there was an acute shortage of at least 500 personnel. The hiring of new staff made up some of this shortfall, but NS already knows that another group of conductors will retire this year. Currently, more than 400 main conductors and about 150 train drivers are still needed this year.
Complicating matters is the fact that not all new conductors can start immediately. They first have to undergo training and it will probably take months before they are ready. The office staff who will get on the train later this month also had to complete a short training course, for example on how to use a walkie-talkie. In recent months, a small group has also been able to test run on the train.
As a bridging measure, NS is not only deploying office staff. It is also hiring 320 security guards. They will board trains primarily in the evening hours to assist conductors. "Then the conductors can take a day off to attend their daughter's graduation, for example," a spokesperson explained. NS hopes that the temporary intervention in this way will also help to somewhat reduce the high absenteeism of train personnel, according to the spokesperson.
Reporting by ANP