Despite halving the number of passengers next year more trains on track

Next year it will be busier on the Dutch railways. Despite the corona crisis and the sharp drop in the number of passengers, the number of train rides will continue to grow in 2021. This is reflected in the capacity distribution that the rail manager ProRail is sending to the carriers today. The timetables for passengers are drawn up on the basis of this distribution.

Next year, 2,172,187 passenger train rides are planned, almost 3,000 more than this year. There will soon be an extra express train between Groningen and Leeuwarden and there will be a night train connection between Amsterdam and Vienna. “All these new trains need a place on the track, without hindering other trains. That’s why we divide the capacity on the track every year”, says Sybren Hazenberg of ProRail.

A half extra trains, the new distribution should also lead to an improvement of existing connections. For example, the intercity train to Berlin will soon travel ten minutes faster through the Netherlands and passengers in Groningen, Leeuwarden, Geldermalsen and Baarn will be able to change trains faster from 2021

Fewer long trains

But it’s a different year than usual. In recent months, the number of train passengers has fallen sharply. At one point, only 10 percent of the normal number of passengers was still on the train. By now, that has grown to 40 percent, but still far from the old level. Nevertheless, both ProRail and the transport operators do not consider scheduling fewer trains an option: “That would really be a step backwards. Especially when life will hopefully return to normal, we really need those trains”, says Hazenberg.

And the Dutch Railways also states: “NS will continue to improve and expand the timetable. This year and the years after. This is hugely important for passengers. During corona, so that they can travel comfortably and responsibly. And after corona, so that we can receive more passengers again” The reduced number of passengers may lead to fewer long trains being used, says regional train operator Arriva.

Simply reducing the number of trains is actually not an option because it has too much influence on, for example, transfer times, says Hazenberg. “We’ve been allocating capacity for years. In fact, the distribution for 2022 is already eighty percent ready. We are even looking ahead to the plans for 2040. So we can’t just make a new plan.”