ICE high-speed train at Rotterdam Central, the Netherlands

The Netherlands starts market consultation for open access on international lines

source: Ricardo Nederland / Joeri du Bois

The Dutch Government is starting a market exploration of the possibilities for open access on the international railway lines to and from the Netherlands. National and international carriers are called upon to express their interest in setting up international train services, and to contribute ideas about the opportunities and challenges on international routes in the coming half year.

Most international trains in the Netherlands run under the concession of Dutch Railways NS. However, the cabinet has indicated that it is open to more competition on international rail from 2025. By starting with a market consultation, an inventory is made of which operators would be interested in access to this market, or what is holding them back.

Open access

Over the next six months, a consortium of Berenschot, Arcadis and TÜV Rheinland will be conducting research on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management into the competitive provision of international train services. These three parties enter into dialogue with national and international market parties, Dutch and foreign governments and consumer organisations.

Project leader Kaj Mook at Berenschot calls on interested parties to actively report to him: “We are looking for operators interested in creating the future international train offer. We would like to get in touch with parties who recognise themselves in this.” Berenschot is a Dutch independent organisational consultancy with 350 employees worldwide and has worked for clients in the public sector and business for 80 years.

Competition on the main rail net

Last year, state secretary of Infrastructure and Water Management Stientje van Veldhoven announced that the concession for the Dutch main rail network will again go to NS after 2024. Procurement would be “very complex and risky” and could be disadvantageous for travellers and taxpayers. The decision was supported by the Dutch House of Representatives.

Regional operators Arriva, Transdev, Qbuzz, Keolis and EBS, backed by AllRail and operators from other EU countries, filed a lawsuit and said it goes against European regulations. The judge said that they could not determine whether this was the case, and it is now up to the Court of Justice of the EU. A main objective of the Fourth Railway Package is more competitive forces on the railways in all Member States of the European Union. The starting point is “tendering, unless”. Directly awarding remains possible, but stricter conditions apply from 25 December 2023.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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