DUTCH regional operator QBuzz, a subsidiary of Italian State Railways (FS), has submitted a request to operate open-access overnight services to the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Market (ACM).

QBuzz wants to operate trains from Dordrecht via Rotterdam Central to Utrecht Central on Friday and Saturday nights, calling at Rotterdam Alexander, Gouda and Woerden. QBuzz plans to start operating these services on December 21 2024.

The requests follow initiatives by regional Dutch operator Arriva Nederland to operate open-access services on routes included in the Main Line Network concession granted to state operator Netherlands Railways (NS).

As public transport in the Netherlands is a regulated market, operating rail services is only permitted under a concession granted by the competent authorities. However, the Fourth Railway Package established by the European Union allows for the introduction of open-access services operated on a commercial basis without a concession.

The ACM will judge the economic impact of the new open-access services on NS’s Main Line concession. QBuzz expects a reply from ACM within three months and has also requested train paths from Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail.

Arriva Nederland launched open-access services in the Netherlands in December 2022 and January 2023. It is operating weekday overnight trains on the Maastricht - Schiphol Airport and Groningen - Schiphol Airport lines, while permission has been granted by ACM to expand the offer.

The QBuzz request comes shortly after ACM ruled that it could not assess the economic impact of a request by Arriva Nederland to launch new open-access passenger services between Zwolle and Leeuwarden and Zwolle and Groningen in competition with NS because the future Main Line Network concession has not yet been awarded.

“The expansion of train operations with night services between Dordrecht and Utrecht, based on open access, is for us a logical next step,” says Qbuzz CEO, Mr Gerrit Spijksma. “One step for which our holding company FS is happy to share its extensive experience in train operations with us.

“Of course, the QBuzz night trains will connect with other night trains of other operators. This creates new travel opportunities with other parts of the country. In this way we prove that open access will offer unlimited possibilities to train passengers.”