The Railways in 2020. The experience in Holland

We travelled from St Pancreas, via Brussels and Rotterdam, to Utrecht

Holland has a population of 16.7m and is nearly 40% more densely populated than the UK. It is very dependent on Foreign Trade. They are the UK’s fourth largest export market, and Dutch companies are the second largest investors in the UK (after the USA).

The UK has 1.8m Dutch visitors each year and 75% of the population speak English. There are lots of big UK/Dutch companies like Shell, Unilever, Logica/CMG and P and O. Like the UK, Holland has had a double dip recession, and recently agreed a Euro 12.4bn budget reduction package.

On Day one the Transport Select Committee was visiting Holland. We started from St Pancras with a 8.30am meeting with Eurostar on route and arrived at Utrecht, via Brussels and Rotterdam, early in the afternoon.

Our first meeting was with the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment to discuss their railways and policy on big transport projects. They had just awarded the national network concession (a bit like a super franchise for all the money-making routes in the UK) to NS (Dutch railways) without any competitive tender.

There appears to be some debate on whether this falls foul of EU rules, or whether it will soon.  Nobody we met seemed to be able to justify the decision on cost or quality of service.

In the evening we met some of the representatives of some of Holland’s big companies, interest groups and political representatives of the CDA and Labour (PvDA) Parties.

Although the Labour party and the Conservate Liberal Party (VVD)  are the biggest two parties in parliament, equivalent of our Labour and Tory Parties, they have done a deal to agree next year’s budget and are in discussion to set up a coalition together.

Holland has a much more integrated transport system thatn the UK. They have a very advanced national smart ticketing scheme. It is similar to London’s Oyster card, but it includes bikes and car hire too.

Tomorrow, we are off to Germany.

5 responses to “The Railways in 2020. The experience in Holland

  1. Too late to apply the common sense approach to railways in the UK which are already in total disarray as a result of the last Tory government and Labour’s failure to grasp the nettle and bring them back into public ownership. But do enjoy the jolly – will you be coming to France to sample the publicly owned SNCF?

  2. St Pancreas? And “Eurostar” does not have a middle capital S…
    The two biggest political parties in the Netherlands are Labour and VVD (not CDA); coalition talks between the two parties appear to be still ongoing, although the two parties together do not make a majority. VVD is actually aligned with the Liberal Democrats (it is Mark Rutte, the VVD leader, that Nick Clegg showed off his Dutch-speaking skills to earlier this year); it is pro-EU, free-market and socially liberal, making rather like a party of Orange Booker Lib Dems! [There is also the left-liberal D66.] As for CDA, it is equivalent of the Tories only if the Tories in question are the likes of Ken Clarke; it is a pro-EU centrist conservative party. It belongs to the European People’s Party, the European party bloc that the Tories left to form an alliance with a bunch of extremist nutters, which include two religious “confessional” parties in the Netherlands. CDA used to be one of the two largest parties, but in the recent election came fifth.

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comments. Have corrected my blog accordingly. I would suggest if you vote for the same budget you are in effect in coalition. The point I was trying to make was about the concept of coalitions, not the specifics.

      Best wishes,

      John Leech

  3. In general, I liked this post, but: the Liberal Democrats and the VVD are both members of the ELDR. Your MEP colleagues sit with them in the European Parliament. As a representative of a pro-European party, you should take that link seriously. You shouldn’t describe the VVD as Tories, just as you wouldn’t describe the Scottish Liberal Democrats as a bit like Labour.

  4. A bit late, perhaps, but I tend to disagree with Chris Shelton. I regard the VVD as the equivalent of the Tories, and see D66 as the counterpart of the LibDems. I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Liberals/LibDems since, about 1970 and I’ve been resident in the Netherlands since 1969, and my opinion on this hasn’t changed in that time.

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