Arriva wants to take over more than 20 routes from NS
Arriva wants to operate on numerous railway tracks in the country on which NS trains currently run from 2026. The rail operator has submitted a corresponding application to the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), an Arriva spokeswoman confirmed, De Volkskrant reported.
A total of 24 local trains and two intercity routes are involved. For instance, Arriva wants to start services between Amsterdam and Hoofddorp, Vlissingen and Breda, and Lelystad and Zwolle. Arriva also wants to establish an intercity connection to Brussels.
The connections are part of the so-called main rail network. The government has already stated that the concession for the main rail network will again be awarded to NS for a longer period. However, according to Arriva, the final signatures have not yet been made. "That's why now is the time to announce and apply for our plans before irreversible decisions are made until 2033 that deny passengers the prospect of better public transport for a longer period of time."
Arriva and other regional operators such as Keolis and Qbuzz have long been opposed to the private award of the main rail network to NS. They argue that this approach violates European regulations. The transport companies united in the Federatie Mobiliteitsbedrijven Nederland (FMN) have also already announced that they will take further legal action once the new award of the main rail network to the NS has been fully arranged.
Arriva believes it has a good chance of offering the routes based on its suitability alone. "We are bidding for these routes because our expertise is in operating regional stopping and express trains," the spokeswoman said. Arriva is also seeking improvements such as more frequent hourly trains and more trains in the evening hours, she said. "An additional benefit for passengers is that we want to eliminate the double boarding fee between bus and regional rail."
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management said that Arriva's plans are being examined with interest, but details are not yet known. The ministry also indirectly indicated that the Arriva plans are welcomed as long as the trains complement the NS railroad traffic, De Volkskrant reported.
According to the newspaper, the ministry wants a "reliable and coherent timetable that guarantees travelers can travel throughout the Netherlands on all days of the week. Travelers must also be able to transfer easily and quickly. If, in addition, there are new initiatives to offer even more trains, this could be good for travelers."
Brussels has also criticized the private award of the concession for the main rail network to NS. In the summer, the European Commission therefore initiated proceedings against the Netherlands. In a letter, the EU executive called on the government to comply with EU competition rules for awarding public rail transport contracts. This so-called infringement procedure could eventually lead to a complaint to the European Court of Justice if The Hague does not take the steps demanded by Brussels.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times