THE Dutch government has confirmed that it will continue to offer financial support to public transport operators for the remainder of 2022, extending an agreement that was due to expire in September.

While passenger numbers are steadily increasing following the roll back of anti-Covid-19 restrictions and face mask obligations, volumes are yet to fully recover. The Dutch Knowledge Institute for Transport Policy (KiM) estimates an average of 88% of passenger volumes in 2022 compared with 2019.

At €140m, the level of funding is significantly lower than the €2.1bn and €1.4bn provided in 2020 and 2021 respectively, which enabled operators to maintain a high service level when ridership was suppressed. Public transport operators and the Ministry of Infrastructure are also considering new measures to attract people back to public transport.

Based on analysis by KiM, secretary of state for the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure, Mrs Vivianne Heijnen, expects public transport passenger volumes to recover to 97% of 2019 levels in 2023. The Dutch government expects to end the subsidy in 2023 based on the assumption that there are no further Covid-19 lockdowns.

However, public transport operators are not expecting such a strong recovery. Public transport lobby organization OV-NL does not expect a full recovery before 2025 and fears that if the government’s financial support ceases in 2023, operators will have to cut 20-30% of services. The association representing Dutch public transport companies says the government has based its decision on only the most positive scenario.