International trains reaching their limits as railway holiday gains popularity
The international trains are packed as going on vacation by train gains popularity throughout Europe. The European Commission and the departing Dutch government want improvement in international connections, but not everyone is equally eager or has the same priorities, Parool reports.
For the months of June, July, and August, NS has so far sold some 339,000 international train tickets, about 20 percent more than in 2022, which was already much higher than in previous summers. Last summer, NS dealt with super-packed trains and travelers left behind on the platform when travelers rushed to the railway station due to problems and canceled flights at the airports. So this year, NS decided that travelers have to reserve a seat in advance for some international trains.
According to Garth Donners, a sustainable mobility consultant at the engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV, the growing demand is too much for railway companies like NS. The range of international trains from the Netherlands has been about the same for years, with few extra trains and few destinations.
There are plans for faster rail lines and more trains, but the first will only be a reality by 2030. Funding is often an issue, as investments are postponed due to the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. And railway companies in Europe invariably prioritize their domestic timetables.
According to Donners, railway companies work well together but don’t always have the same priorities. “Deutsche Bahn focuses more on Switzerland and Austria, where people also speak German, and there is a relatively large among of exchange between travelers than on cooperation with the NS,” he told Parool as an example. “A scarcity of equipment to enable an international rail network is the biggest bottleneck here. Railway lines between the Netherlands and Germany get less priority.”
The large companies are also in a favorable position - growing demand means they can charge higher fares and have less incentive to change international timetables, Bert van Wee of TU Delft told Parool. He called it a good thing for consumers that new train companies are challenging the monopoly of traditional parties like NS, referring to Arriva and Qbuzz applying to also offer international train services.