March 15, 2012

Dutch government fines NS and Prorail

Written by  Quintus Vosman, Regional editor
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THE Dutch minister of infrastructure Mrs Melanie Schulz van Haegen-Maas Geesteranus, has decided to impose fines on both Netherlands Railways (NS) and infrastructure manager Prorail for failing to reach the level of performance stipulated in their concession agreements.

The minister says that while NS achieved record punctuality of 94.7% (within five minutes of schedule), a fine is justified because passenger satisfaction scores remain low, particularly in passenger information, availability of staff, and availability of seats. At €2.75m, the fine is the maximum the government can impose on NS, although it will be retracted if the operator demonstrates improvements in these areas over the remainder of this year.

Schulz van Haegen has ruled that NS will have to pay most of the fine levied against it for poor performance in 2010, which was imposed under similar conditions. This will cost NS €2.03m.

The minister was also displeased about the performance of Prorail, which failed to meet contractual standards on passenger information provision, and has imposed a €300,000 fine. NS has now taken over Prorail's passenger information department.

Both Prorail and NS operate under concessions based on yearly management plans, which also contain performance indicators designed to ensure higher quality and performance in the railway sector. If these performance indicators are not met by both organisations, the minister plans to introduce a direct fine system, dropping the recovery period clause which allows fines to be reduced if performance improves. This might come into force in 2015.

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