NS chief warns more trains could be scrapped due to staff shortages
Despite the fact that Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has already significantly reduced train services as a result of severe staff shortages, the rail company’s CEO has warned travellers that, due to a lack of approximately 2.200 workers, the current timetable could face further cuts over the coming weeks.
NS train timetable faces more cuts as staff shortage continues
It’s been a tricky couple of months over at NS; with passenger numbers experiencing a sharp increase following the coronavirus pandemic, the company found it was unable to accommodate the sudden influx of travellers, especially as it continued to battle a severe shortage of staff. Issues were exacerbated when employees went on strike over the summer, demanding better contracts, higher salaries, and fairer workloads.
In August, NS announced that the ongoing labour shortage meant it would have to reduce services throughout this winter, with further cuts planned for the 2023 timetable. Now, NS chief Bart Groenewegen has said that in spite of the tireless work being carried out to fill vacancies and hire more workers, if the shortage persists, more cuts could be on the cards.
“The work is weighing on an increasingly smaller group. With all the associated consequences: unstable rosters, insufficient space to be able to take time off and failure,” Groenewegen told NOS. “If we continue like this, we may have to decide to scale down our timetable even further.”
Dutch government calls for urgent action to improve situation
A lack of staff isn’t the only issue plaguing NS: the recent decision to run a reduced timetable was designed to prevent “nasty surprises” and last-minute cancellations for travellers. However, passengers complain that this simply isn’t the case. A recent study by RTL Nieuws found that, while at the end of 2021 only around 2 to 3 percent of trains were cancelled, in August and September the figure stood at 11 and 9 percent respectively.
"NS has stripped the timetable with the promise that travellers can count on the remaining trains to run,” Rikus Spithorst from travellers’ organisation VoorBeterOV told RTL Nieuws. “That does not seem to be correct now. We are seeing more and more complaints, which has been the case for a number of days."
In response to rising tensions amongst passengers, the Dutch government has called for urgent action to be taken to prevent further cancellations and cuts. Members of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) argue that public transport should be an appealing option for travellers, with State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management Vivianne Heijnen saying that NS “must do everything they can to ensure that passengers get from A to B in the right way."