NS has discovered that confidential information had been passed to Qbuzz employees by a former employee of Veolia Transport Limburg, the incumbent operator of a large part of the recently-tendered network.

NS has informed Limburg's regional public transport authority of the 'irregularity' and has expressed that it will accept the consequences with regard to the 15-year concession, which was awarded to Abellio on March 10.

Two senior Qbuzz and Abellio managers have been suspended and NS says it take disciplinary action against other staff involved in the incident. A former general manager of Qbuzz, who had been serving as an advisor, has also been dismissed.

According to NS the former Veolia employee, who is alleged to have leaked the confidential information to the Abellio/Qbuzz bid team, was due to join Qbuzz on NS following the expiry of his restraint of trade, a condition in his contract with his former employer preventing him from working for a direct competitor.

NS CEO Mr Timo Hughes had been informed that the former Veolia employee would join NS, but was not told about the irregularities in the bidding process. However, the suspended managers have told the Dutch press that NS senior managers were fully informed and aware of the situation.

The former Veolia employee was reportedly a member of the Qbuzz/Abellio tendering team, as he was appointed through a third party company.

NS states that Qbuzz has not been adequately incorporated into the organisation of the parent company in terms of culture and compliance, conceding that it should have imposed a tougher regime of inspection and control on its subsidiary.

NS says that it will now implement further internal compliance investigations and a broad analysis of internal procedures, risk management, compliance and controls both within its own organisation and in its subsidiaries. This research will be audited by an external company.

A public prosecutor is now investigating the matter to establish whether criminal charges should be brought.