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Latest plans to keep trains on track in winter21 October 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has presented plans by the Dutch public transport companies NS and ProRail to keep trains moving through rain, hail and snow this winter.
The plan, presented to Parliament, stated that this winter NS and ProRail will aim for reliability and predictability with their services over train capacity. The plan contains both short-term and long-term measures to deal with the pressures services come under on inclement winter days.
Changes have been made to the alert criteria, which is used to assess if any changes should be made to timetables and reduce services.
Previously, services were reduced if more than three centimetres of snow were expected to fall or there was a 10 per cent chance of frost from temperatures of below -10 degrees Celsius. Under the adjusted criteria, the snow limit will stay the same, but the risk of heavy frost will be increased to 50 per cent.
These sharpened alert criteria are also supposed to ensure that trains can return to a regular schedule earlier than the previous winter. Customer surveys last winter showed that travellers prefer a regular schedule over a longer amended one.
They also expect the performance of infrastructure to improve this year, as there will be more monitoring and attention on location that need heating and repair crews will be deployed more effectively. This is also helped by the full national deployment of anti-icing systems.
A customised schedule is designed to give train operators flexibility and time to repair malfunctions, so that the system stays "under control" in severe winter weather. It means that there are around 20 per cent less trains on days with a custom schedule (up to 50 per cent less in the Randstad).
Passenger numbers, however, remain the same. NS and ProRail plan to address this by using longer trains to accommodate more passengers, especially during rush hour in the Randstad. They will also advise passengers to travel outside rush hour (if possible) on those days with a custom schedule.
Photo by Flickr user itsvasco
According to the Ministry, the ambition for winter in the future is to work towards a situation where under (almost) all circumstances passengers can expect reliable services and travel information.
"This will require an improved approach in which the interplay of infrastructure, equipment, personnel, logistic plans and manufacturing and adjustments are optimised, starting from the traveller," stated the letter.
The Ministry said that the aim for this winter (as it was for last winter) is to ensure that even with multiple infrastructure and equipment failures, by taking preventive measures and using custom schedules the rail system will remain in control and prevent as many disturbances as possible.
One thing that might help is predictions on weather. Having studied the winters of the past decade, the train companies calculated that they would need to create a custom schedule for an average of 12 days per winter. This winter, however, these calculations indicate that there will only be 10 such bad days.
Given that train ticket prices have risen recently, travellers will probably welcome that piece of hopeful news.