Train Arriva (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

The liberal Dutch government has so far been reluctant to open up the network

of

NS (Nederlandse Spoorwege)

, the national railway company. In fact, it extended the monopoly concession to NS for ten years in 2015, a concession that will therefore expire at the end of 2024.

However, the lines are moving. The government has just approved a first concession to the operator Arriva Netherlands, an international subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn. The operator is Europe’s leading private transport company with more than two billion passengers per year in 14 countries on the continent. Arriva NL applied in June to operate regional open access rail services.

On

16 September, the Dutch Consumer and Market Authority (ACM) granted the company permission

to operate

two night routes and one day route

.

In the first phase, the company wants to offer three rail routes. Two night services should link Amsterdam Schiphol airport to Groningen in the north-east and to Maastricht in the south of the country. The line would run weekly and allow passengers to arrive at the airport early in the morning to take advantage of all the connections. This would reduce car traffic to the airport and is therefore environmentally sustainable.

The other route will be a daytime service between two central Dutch cities, Apeldoorn and Amersfoort. It would operate up to five times a day. The rail operator will bear all costs and risks associated with the services. Arriva will not receive any official concession from the Dutch state.

Under current EU regulations, so-called “open access” rail services can be launched from this year. The condition is that they do not have a significant negative impact on an existing public service contract. After investigation, ACM concluded that the new concession would have a negligible negative impact. It would have a 0,03 percentage point impact on the profit margin of NS. Arriva therefore plans to start operating its services in December 2022.

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According to Anne Hettinga, managing director of Arriva Netherlands, “Open access will be new territory for us, but we welcome the opportunity to enhance our passenger offering and expand our portfolio of public transport operations in the Netherlands.”