Speaking at a press conference AnsaldoBreda's headquarters in Pistoia on September 16, CEO Mr Maurizio Manfellotto insisted that the trains are safe and fully approved for commercial operation, reiterating that the company will not take back the trains from NS.
Referring to the incident which led to the withdrawal of the Belgian V250s, AnsaldoBreda said that data from the onboard recorder showed the train control system had automatically reduced the speed of the train due to the icy weather conditions. However, it is claimed the driver overrode the system on three occasions, restarting the train manually.
According to AnsaldoBreda a recovery plan, which aimed to address problems with winter operation, had been agreed between the supplier, NS, and Belgian National Railways (SNCB), which has also cancelled its order for three trains. AnsaldoBreda claims that if the plan had been implemented correctly, at least five V250s would be available for service this autumn. NS officially cancelled its order for the trains on August 30 and argues that the recovery plan is not workable.
AnsaldoBreda has proposed fitting snowploughs to the trains to prevent ice build-up.
"The responsiblity for what happened cannot be attributed to our company," says Manfellotto. "Our hope is that we can find a solution to this dispute without going to court."
On the day of the press conference in Pistoia, NS demanded that AnsaldoBreda remove the 16 V250s from Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer yard, where the sets are currently stored, as a condition of the cancellation of the contract. The yard belongs to NS train maintenance subsidiary NedTrain.
NS is also pushing for AnsaldoBreda to return the €200m it has already paid for the trains and is seeking compensation for additional costs relating to the technical problems that led to their withdrawal, including the cost of obtaining alternative rolling stock for Amsterdam – Brussels services. Nine of the 16 V250s were accepted by NS and became the property of NS Financial Services.
On September 19 the manufacturer and its customers will again come face-to-face at the Court of Justice in Utrecht, which will hear an appeal against the court's previous ruling that technical reports commissioned by NS and SNCB should not be released to AnsaldoBreda.
As the dispute rumbles on, NS is attempting to keep the V250s in operational condition. Once a week, one train makes a nocturnal return trip from Watergraafsmeer to Maarsen near Utrecht.