MUCH of the Dutch railway network came to a standstill at around 14.00 on May 31 following the failure of the GSM-R network.

Netherlands Railways (NS) and regional operators Arriva, Connexxion and Transdev, Keolis and QBuzz were hit as well as freight operators while cross-border trains were unable to enter the Netherlands. Only lines in the south of the province of Noord-Limburg and regional, non-electrified lines from Groningen and Leeuwarden were unaffected.

Without functioning GSM-R, trains are not allowed to operate. Infrastructure manager ProRail allowed passenger trains that were in service to arrive at station platforms, but the trains did not continue their journeys. The GSM- R mobile communication network is managed by Mobirail, a joint venture of Nokia and KPN telecom provider.

Limited services were restored and continued for the rest of the day and a full timetable resumed on June 1.

ProRail told IRJ that the cause was down a system error. The backup systems began working but they also became overloaded due to the same error and automatically dropped out. ProRail says such an occurrence is extremely rare and that the system, which it says it has used for a very long time, is normally very reliable. It says the investigation will look at how the error occurred and it will monitor all logs until the source of the fault is found. The infrastructure manager has though ruled out a hack as the cause of the problem.

ProRail awarded Nokia a 10-year contract to operate and maintain the GSM-R network in April, taking over from Mobirail. The contract will commence in September 2022 and includes radio planning, capacity management, management of third-party maintenance contracts, and network extensions, updates and upgrade projects. The relationship will also pave the way for a future migration to the Future Railway Mobile Communications System (FRMCS).

The disruption by occurred on the same day that NS reported to have reached 500,000 passengers per day again for the first time since the start of the coronavirus crisis.