Concerns for crowds on public transport as restrictions are relaxed
Dutch railway company NS, Public Transport Netherlands (OV-NL), and travellers’ organisation Rover have voiced concerns about growing passenger numbers on public transport after the first coronavirus restrictions are lifted next week.
Passenger numbers rising as coronavirus restrictions are eased
At the press conference on April 20, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that a handful of coronavirus restrictions would be eased across the Netherlands, allowing for shops, terraces, and higher education to reopen, and lifting the national curfew.
While this news was welcomed by many, public transport companies fear what it could mean for the number of passengers travelling by train. Members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) have said that trains were already too busy in March, when only 30 percent of regular travellers made use of rail services.
"If you relax, it will be busier on trains. Now it is not possible to maintain 1,5-metre distance, and it will never be possible. What is the safe solution? There is none," said OV-NL chairman Pedro Peters. The current advice from the Dutch government asks the public to only travel via public transport if absolutely necessary, and since Tuesday the Ministry of Infrastructure has asked travellers to avoid rush hour and crowds.
NS to scale up services from May 3
In an attempt to disperse crowds as much as possible, NS has stated that they will gradually increase the number of services from May 3, so that by mid-June 98 percent of their services will be up and running again. NS is currently running 90 percent of their trains.
More services will be introduced on the busiest routes. From May 3, there will be additional Intercity trains running between Rotterdam and Utrecht, and more Sprinters running between Amsterdam and Utrecht. From May 24, the number of trains running the Amsterdam - Rotterdam, The Hague - Utrecht, and Utrecht - Amersfoort routes will also be increased.
"We want nothing more than to keep the Netherlands accessible and to bring passengers to their destination,” says NS director Marjan Rintel. “We are preparing a plan... so that the moment the Netherlands takes the train again, NS can welcome everyone with open arms."