Nieuwsbrief Issue 37 - June 2001
Dutch Railway News Private Operators Miscellaneous News SNCB News
Museum News Tramway News Railway Philately Swapmeet Review
Seen in the Reading Model News Book Reviews Railways on the Internet
NS Reizigers      

Compiled and translated by Peter van der Mark
A digest of news from the railways in the Benelux using Het Openbaar Vervoer/ Railnieuws, Today's Railways, Rail Magazine, Modern Railways, Rail, various Dutch newspapers and some mostly anonymous word of mouth from inside the industry. Thanks to all who have assisted me!

Class 1600 B-B' electric locos. Number 1601, which carries the Amsterdam city crests, has unofficially received red noses from its regular crews. Whether the loco will be painted red all over now that 1637 has gone over to NS is not at all clear. What is happening here is that this loco is the dedicated loco of the Amsterdam Westhaven flying squad (hence the inscriptions vli-plo Awhv), a group of train crew plus loco which are used for short notice extra's, to clear late trains, failures etc. and accept highly irregular working hours. This turns out to be a huge success and there is a drive within Railion to set up similar flying squads elsewhere, notably around Rotterdam and at some of the border locations. Whether the dedicated locos there will receive similar private treatment is not known but would make sense as it would be immediately clear what crew is turning up where.
Class 1700 B-B' electric locos. Locos 1711 and 1718, which were used to test the Siemens pantographs fitted on the ICE sets, have regained their standard Faiveley pans now that the ICE has become a daily reality. Loco 1777 rammed a car on a road crossing while working an Eindhoven to Haarlem InterCity. The car had been driven by a lady who had taken a wrong turn and used the railway crossing to do a U-turn but failed, and got the car stuck off the crossing in the ballast. On impact the car burst into flames and set the loco and first coach alight, causing very considerable damage.
Plan U DEMU's. Five of these venerable sixties three car sets are to be equipped with ATB-NG. The snag is that the brake rates of this new generation ATP have been calculated with the high brake performance of the modern DM'90 units in mind and this will make the ATP unable to stop a plan U in time. In order to counter this the ATP will force the plan U set to travel slower or to start braking much earlier. Tests with a DM'90 set at the plan U brake performance confirmed this assertion. The choice is now whether to accept this under-performance of the refurb sets, to develop completely new ATP software or to enhance the brake performance of plan U, non of which NS is likely to be happy about. Another snag is that the equipment is hard to come by, Alstom ACEC, for reasons of their own, appear to be less than interested in sales of the very expensive TBL2 ATP.
SGM Sprinter two- and three-car EMU's. The 60 three-car sets will undergo extensive renovation and modernisation. Their interiors will be thoroughly refurbished with security enhancing glass partitioning, far more comfortable individual seats and a state of the art passenger information system. Soundproofing will be thoroughly enhanced. More space will be dedicated to wheelchairs, prams and bicycles. A very noticeable external alteration will be that the intermediate trailers will get an extra set of exit doors amidships to reduce dwell times in stations, to which aim present pneumatically operated doors will be replaced by faster electrically operated types. The worn out compressors will be replaced with silent modern types to additionally deal with environmental noise pressure. A new livery is under consideration.
The most important change, however, is the fact that the present traction installation, a classic camshaft/ resistance outfit, will be replaced with an IGBT chopper installation with which the two unreliable GTO-thyristor chopper two-car Sprinters were very successfully put back into service after having languished in the sidings for years. It is expected that the three-car sets will be 30 percent more energy efficient yet give better acceleration after this refit, which will also allow the maximum speed of 125 kph to be reinstated. NS expects to have the modernised sets in service for at least another 15 years, by which time they probably won't travel under the NS banner anymore. The first upgraded set is expected back on the track in 2003 after the overhaul, which will be tendered along the present European guidelines. Interestingly, NedTrain, NS' own maintenance subsidiary, has been excluded from this tendering because the company appears overloaded with work as the situation is at present, while NS finds it inappropriate to have its own subsidiary competing for such a major job. There are also voices stating that NS is not impressed with NedTrain's achievements so far.
DD-IRM double deck EMU's. Bombardier is now well under way with the follow-on construction of the 378 IRM coaches of various descriptions. Whilst the construction of the bodies takes place in Goerlitz in former Eastern Germany, the final assembly and finish of the sets will take place in the sheds of the former Talbot works in Aachen where many an NS unit has started its life after the demise of the Werkspoor works in Utrecht.

Coaches ICK. PFA Weiden, the company which is to refurbish and alter the former DB coaches bought by NS, has been saved by a local bank with a €1.5m bridging loan. With two months delay the work has now started and the first fifty technically overhauled ICK are expected in September, after which the delivery of the fully refurbished coaches will start. The first fifty will then be taken back and receive the full interior upgrade afterwards.
As yet it still is not entirely clear how the ICK's are going to be deployed. Their narrow sixties twist and fold power doors make short dwell times at stations unlikely, and their everyday use on corridors in the Randstad, as good as impossible. Most likely they will initially be used to replace the truly disliked French/ Belgian K4's and the fifteen oldest plan W on the Haarlem to Eindhoven IC trains, while later they might be cascaded to the IJssel line and Utrecht to Eindhoven push-pull jobs, from where they will free IRM sets for use elsewhere.
Coaches ICR. Due to non-specified approval problems the delivery of the refurbished ICR coaches has stagnated and lines of the renewed rolling stock are waiting re-commissioning in Haarlem. RailNed appears unhappy with some of the mods and has imposed restrictions on the top-speed, making full use in the advertised services impossible. Funnily enough, three coaches are running in normal services to gain experience and to instruct staff, even though NS has not formally taken them over.
The Benelux push-pull variety will be subject to big plans, the trains are going to be lengthened to seven vehicles once more, bringing a third repaint to a number of coaches, and an extension to ten coaches in 2003 is mooted (new IRM freeing ICR). This is because there is a genuine wish among KLM, Sabena, NS and Belgian Rail to use trains to offer a dense flight replacement timetable between Brussel, Zaventem Airport, Antwerpen, the Southern Randstad, Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam, using the push-pull sets rather than Thalys TGV sets. The main problem is the highly unreliable Belgian class 1150 locos which will have to undergo quite a bit of remedial work to make them more powerful and faster as the 160 kph (100 mph) capacity of the coaches has to be used to make things come true smoothly.


It has transpired that the domestic intermodal operations, which were stopped by NS and taken over by ShortLines and ACTS, are in trouble. Since July 2000 the ShortLines Maasvlakte-Born Express has travelled at only half its previous length and the service has become rather irregular since, even cancellations were noticed. On the 5th of March the train was stopped altogether, only a set of wagons from Born to P&O-Nedlloyd, with which ShortLines started everything after it took this service over from NS, remains. These wagons now travel with the chemical tanker train from Geleen-Lutterade to Botlek, which ShortLines hi-jacked from NS as reported previously in Nieuwsbrief.
The ACTS AmRo shuttle from Rotterdam to Amsterdam has been troubled as well, due to the main freight forwarder, Deltalogic, going bankrupt. ACTS involved another forwarder, Optimodal, and restarted the services with three return trips (Tuesday-Thursday) per week. Railion has become involved as it assists ACTS with shunting operations in the Westhaven in Amsterdam and the tripping of wagons to and from the Cerestar and TTA terminals, which made the return of the ex-Czech V60 to Rotterdam possible. Despite these problems ACTS is recruiting new drivers and is still reported to be on the trawl for traction. Talks with EWS about the hire or purchase of up to ten class 58 Co-Co' DE Locos are mentioned in several publications. As this number of locos is too much to cover its present needs this makes me worried about continued existence of the failure-prone class 1200 electrics.

ACTS surprised everybody with a coup, which concerns a convoy of tankers with heavy oil from Austria but operated by Eurorail in Zug (Switzerland) to the Humber Petrochemicals in Amsterdam. The shipper and DB-Cargo/ Railion fell out and the transport changed into the hands of the German open access operator NEG who runs trains hauled by ex-Danish NoHab/ GM Co-Co' DE locos. ACTS managed to get the contract for the last leg of the run to Amsterdam (Railion very likely being forbidden to tender by the DB-Cargo head office in Mainz) and with this contact looks like being in line for more of the same. ACTS is also involved in transport from Vagron (Groningen) via Bentheim (Bentheimer Eisenbahn) to Schwarze Pumpe in Germany. Privatisation in the railfreight world undeniably works.

This local operator is struggling to keep its fleet of Wadloper sets going; about a quarter of the fleet is standing OOU due to spares delivery problems. A drive to identify the weakest links in the system is one approach to solving the problem, but NoordNed actually wants to get rid of the DH units and replace them with the same Alstom LinT 41 units that Syntus is now commissioning. They have a need for 22 of these trains, maintenance of which would be set up in a common pool with Syntus.

At the end of February no traffic was possible for a week between Winterswijk and Zutphen to allow the final commissioning of new signalling and ATP. But when the services started the number of faults and failures made a mockery of the timetable and the image of the railways took another bad knock. But as usual things bedded in and sorted themselves out after a while and the LinT units appear to have given a lot better account of themselves than the DM'90 sets did in their early days. To replace the two still (barely) operating old DE2 DEMU's on the Marienberg services Syntus is rumoured to have taken over two class 140 Pacer units from off-lease stores of the type in Britain. I have as yet not received firm confirmation of this wonderfully cynical development but I am looking hard for it. Stay tuned!

NS results for 2000. A strong growth in the number of transported passengers and an accompanying growth of service unreliability are the key indicators of last year's results. The net result from the operations amounted to NLG 343m, a 50 percent rise over the previous year. The interest on money from sales of partners in the NS-Holding was the main driving force behind this laudable result. Proceeds from the fare box rose by 6 percent to NLG 2674m. This result was tempered by the high investment in measures to improve service delivery and maintenance of (notably older) rolling stock. Whilst the access charges will rise from NLG 40m to NLG 80m, NS managed to suppress the rise of the ticket price to 3.15 percent, lower than the present inflation of 4.5 percent.
More worrying is that the on-time arrivals went down from 86.5 percent to 84.7 percent, despite attempts to stop this trend. Main culprits are the low availability of rolling stock and on-train staff, while the declining reliability of mainly new infrastructure has another rather sharply felt influence. Work to improve this situation is going on, even though the staff recruitment drives are not delivering as hoped as far as drivers are concerned Things look better for conductors.
Real estate and Station commercial activities remain buoyant and increased their result by 6 percent to NLG 157m.
Railion Benelux transported 25.4m tonnes of freight (up 9 percent) last year, which made good the losses of work of the previous year. The financial loss sticks at a persistent NLG 8m on a turnover of NLG 339m. The big growth took place in coal (up 88 percent due to stronger activities of EMO on the Maasvlakte West of Rotterdam), ore (up 21 percent also thanks to EMO) and cereals (up 34 percent mainly due to Maas Silo). Transport of chloric acid fell 56 percent (the ShortLines coup) but also led to a possibility of getting rid of a lot of hassle in the environmental corner. Another downward trend was noted in the transport of steel (down 18 percent), which was caused by the cessation of traffic between Corus Beverwijk and La Louviere in Belgium. Increased despatch of steel coils with the train did not counter this development. Intermodal traffic is showing a strong downward trend and causes worry. Loss of container transhipment activities in Rotterdam (notably to Antwerpen) is one explanation but the question is when are the strongly extended RSC facilities going to bear fruit. On the other side, this kind of traffic is under pressure throughout Europe due to intense competition from other modes of operators on the roads and the waterways. It is notable is that wagonload traffic shows a strong growth of 9 percent, due to increased activities on the sales front. This is a very hopeful development, which potentially would enable Railion to regain a lot of this classic railfreight activity, while for the enthusiast this is the really interesting kind of traffic.
The successful Over Night Express from Amsterdam to Milano ran into trouble when ONE replaced most of the former BundesPost vans with Sffggmrrss 104 container transporters to take the cargo in swapbodies rather than boxed and paletted, as damage and theft are better avoided, refrigeration is easier and loading/unloading times are significantly reduced. All of a sudden the train looked like what it in all reality always was, a fast freight train (now running at a much lower speed of 120 kph or 75 mph) with a few sleepers and catering coaches attached. Whilst FS and Italian customs had been warned of this change, the Italian Railways suddenly rejected the containerised freight bit of the train on March 12th and set off a rather damaging chain of events as far as customer perception is concerned, leading to one big shipper pulling out. After heavy pressure, possibly even on ministerial level, the Italians gave in and since that happy 26th of March the ONE is once more on its way as a true combitrain, with sleepers, catering, vans and container vehicles.
More Trein-Taxi stations added. Four more stations were added to the list where trein-taxi's operate, the successful concept developed by NS to integrate local public transport with rail. Vleuten, Echt, Rosmalen and Heemstede-Aerdenhout have been added, bringing the total up to 115.

Head-on crash near Leuven. Near the small village of Pecrot, East of Brussel between Wavre and Leuven, another crash happened on the 27th of March that continues the sad string of mishaps that have beset the railways in Belgium throughout the last years. The story began when a relatively inexperienced driver took his ECS train away past a red signal at Wavre, crossed over to the wrong line and continued for several miles. He went past nine AHB road crossings that either did not close or were just opening as he followed and slowly overtook a freight train on the right track. People had to hurry to get out of the way while miraculously no car was about. Right in the middle of the village of Pecrot the trip came to an end when his train, formed of two of the older type of two-car electric units, slammed head on into a commuter train consisting of two of the well-known modern electric two-car units which carry the nickname goggles from the look of their windscreens, at a combined speed of 160 kph or 100 mph.
The result was devastating. The empty older unit reared up and destroyed the leading coach of the modern unit leaving only the roof, peeled back on top of the second coach, as the most recognisable part. Both drivers and conductors were among the eight dead. The track was not equipped for reversible traffic and was not fitted with ATP, which, incidentally, was slated to be fitted soon.
The 31-year-old driver of the offending unit had about one year experience but had spent two weeks suspended from duty after having passed a signal at danger one month after passing out. Another reality with which the railways in Belgium will have to come to terms is the fact that when the signalman noticed that he had a runaway along the wrong line, he had great trouble communicating with his colleague in the next box, as that colleague spoke Flemish (Dutch) and he spoke Walloon (French). Attempts to quickly cut power were inhibited by the same trouble. It would appear from long experience that foreign signalmen across borders communicate with greater ease than Belgian signalmen across the infamous language divide in their small nation.
Following on to the derailment of the chemical tanker train near Vise on which reports appeared in Nieuwsbrief, driver error has been identified as the reason for the mishap, when the train took 40 kph crossover turnouts to a parallel track at 70 kph. This in itself this did not derail the train, but the liquid sloshing around in the tanks overturned the vehicles on the reverse curve. The main cause was a Dutch Railion driver misreading the Belgian signals as well as him expecting no speed restriction in this area.
The quadrupling and electrification of the line from the Antwerpen left bank ports to the line from Antwerpen to Gent is about to commence and is slated to be commissioned in 2003. The freight line to Roosendaal has been shelved however; as Mrs. Durant announced (probably rightly so) that the High-Speed line will free enough capacity on the existing line to the Dutch border.
Class 13 Bo-Bo' electric locos. The electrical teething troubles with these locos appear to have been successfully sorted out and squadron delivery as well as regular employment as intended is now picking up apace. The freight services along the Antwerpen, Leuven and Luxembourg corridor are now virtually in the sole charge of the new locos, while through running to Thionville and Metz is awaiting the final decision of the French track authority. The ageing class 20 Co-Co' electrics will then be cascaded away to the freights on the Antwerpen to Montzen route, replacing diesels under the wires which in its turn is likely to lead to wholesale decommissioning of the lately not very reliable class 51 Co-Co' DE locos.
Multiple operation of class 13 has been reported on the Liege-Kinkempois to Bettembourg freights, replacing the Belgian class 55 and similar CFL class 1800 second generation GM Co-Co' diesels. If you want to see one of those on a passenger train, by the way, then visit the Charleroi to Couvin line where a Charleroi example has replaced a class 62 Bo-Bo'.
The progress with the delivery of the class 77 diesels for freight work is now making itself felt among the many types of older locos. Class 75 B-B' and the last of class 71 B-B' diesel hydraulics are all out of use by now and awaiting sale. The majority of the classes 84 and 85 three-axle jackshaft driven shunting locos are awaiting sale or scrap as well. All these types worked the Antwerpen docks areas.
M6 new generation of double deck loco hauled stock. Two mock-ups were shown in Brugge and the interior is impeccable, quite unlike that of the first generation M5 double deck stock. The new stock has individual seats, is fully Air Conditioned and is capable of 160 kph (100 mph) operation. The weight per vehicle hovers between 49.7 and 49.9 tonnes. The 210 coaches on order will be marshalled into 35 sets of six coaches, seating 786 passengers in a non-smoking open first, three non-smoking open seconds, a smoking open composite and a so called multi purpose coach with luggage and bicycle facilities as well as a conductor's office on the lower deck and seating on the upper deck.
Interestingly, Belgian Rail has decided not to fit MU equipment to the train and therefore no driving cab to one of the coaches. The rationale is that the stock will be used on longer distance rush hour trips and will in all probability just make two in and an out trips per day, being stabled in between, which makes the cost of fitting MU kit and a driving cab not viable. This is something they probably will come to regret as this way they seriously inhibit flexible deployment of this most expensive stock, while it also mocks the decision to fit the recently built I11 long distance single deck stock with control trailers. Traction for the M6 trains will normally be any of the more modern Bo-Bo' electric locos of the types 13, 21 or 27. Introduction into service is slated to take place from early 2002 to 2004 and will allow the last of the dreadful M2 stock to be withdrawn.

Mat’54 in green once more. The privately owned and ever so busy remaining Mat’54 four-car EMU 766 (dragging plan U DE3 sets around for refurb or scrap) has finally been repainted in full green livery with the yellow moustaches, the second and best known version of the original green livery. The set has travelled around with a livery in various stages of the transformation from InterCity yellow back to green, at one time with two coaches in gleaming green and the other two in fading yellow.
HTM tram looking for a home. Four wheelers 830 + 756, formally property of the Utrecht museum but used by HTM as a party tram, will to leave Den Haag again, the venture wasn't successful. As the Utrecht museum has no space to spare it is looking at other candidates to take over the unit, and the foundation RoMeo as well as the Arnhem Open-Air museum are candidates. Arnhem, however, is only looking at the trailer to complement the HTM 274 it already has. RoMeo is prepared to house both vehicles at its depot at Delfshaven and to run them every once in a while.

Amsterdam's wish to convert tram operations to as good as one type of rolling stock has resulted in a second order for the Siemens built Combino tram even before the first unit is making its way through the city. A total of 155 vehicles will now be delivered, to my knowledge the largest single order for the type so far, to the value of €220m. Amsterdam will break with the tradition of numbering its trams consecutively and will enter the Combino's as class 2001- 2155, while the four bi-directional trams for route 5 will get the numbers 2201 to 2204. These vehicles should replace the Duisburg ten-axle trams but given the presently high amount of damage among rolling stock it is questionable whether Amsterdam can do without these capacious trams.
The prospects for successful Combino operations are good. The Japanese City of Hiroshima, which ordered Combino's as well, is satisfied and that does mean something when Japanese deal with imports. The same cannot be said about the Alstom Citadis trams that Rotterdam has ordered. Three French cities were about to drag Alstom to the courts to get satisfaction about the number of failures the trams suffered. Citadis disgraced itself further when a trials unit, in service in the Polish City of Katowice, ran into another tram at about 21 kph due to a so far unexplained brake failure.
Amsterdam is going to work on the above ground Metro stations in order to make them less threatening and thus more customer friendly. The graffiti prone concrete walls will be replaced with transparent structures, which have proved themselves along the ring line. All stations must be renewed by 2006.
The Metro Noord-Zuid line is in trouble due to the fact that none of the five competing construction combines could do the job for the estimated NLG 2.45 bn. As the state is good for NLG 2 bn Amsterdam City Council will have to furnish the rest, including possible overruns of costs. Creative ways of dealing with this problem are being looked at. One way is to let costs overrun but to make the tunnel under the city more profitable by using it as a means of distribution of goods through running freight sets. Track would be laid to distribution centres near motorways at the city edge where lorries would be unloaded into freight units. Various options, including intermodal, to work these services are now being studied, using either dedicated freight trains or freight facilities coupled to passenger trains.
The Belgian government proved its orientation toward rail transport again by approving an investment of €1.36 bn for an RER type of operation around Brussel. The main points of investment would be three-tracking of the Brussel to Denderleeuw route, quadrupling of the Brussel to Nivelles and Ottignies routes, loops from the Zaventem Airport to the Brussel to Antwerpen and the Brussel to Liege main lines, a loop between lines 35 and 36 at Leuven, a tunnel between Bruxelles-Schuman and Schaerbeek - Josaphat, and increasing capacity through the tunnel between Bruxelles-Midi and Brussel-Noord through resignalling. Last but not least the sections of main line around Brussel within reach of the RER operations would be modernised and resignalled.
Following on to the plans for freight activities on the Metro network in Amsterdam; Brussel is looking at exactly the same thing, whereby standardisation of possible intermodal facilities is discussed.
Given the amount of engineering needed to make the Stadtbahn vehicles from Hanover suitable for running on the main line network to Rotterdam along the Hofplein line and to Zoetermeer along the loop it was decided that, looking at the age of the vehicles versus delivery time in 2003, it would be too costly and that purpose built new vehicles with a longer lifetime were preferable. HTM, despite its shortage of rolling stock, will now also not use these trams on its own network to retain the present standardisation it enjoys. At present the only project where the ex-Hanover trams could find employment is at a planned reinstatement of light rail on the route from Haarlem to Zandvoort, as in the days of the blue tram. They will have to hurry as the sale of the vehicles at Hanover is progressing well.
RET, also battling with a shortage of rolling stock prior to the arrival of the new Citadis trams, has asked for and received back its old trams which went to the AOM museum line in Amsterdam. Whilst no driver training is needed and the technical alterations were limited to a thorough exam and the fitting of ticket stampers, staff have already made it clear that as far as they are concerned the limited comfort of the older vehicles does not make them very supportive of such moves. Rotterdam is looking for other options, but has declined the use of the too wide Hanover Stadtbahn vehicles. They are looking at eight bi-directional Duewag trams series 3001-3050 (1973/74) from the Rheinische Bahn Gesellschaft at Duesseldorf. These would fit line 2 with their 2.74m wide bodies and free a number of 700 series trams for a move to the North bank of the river. The appearance of the mock-up of the Citadis cab, incidentally, which will allow staff to have their say about their working environment, is running behind schedule. This is likely to delay the appearance of the trams by a number of months as well.
Additional trouble in the daily course of operations was caused by the driver of a low-loader with a grab, who managed to demolish hundreds of meters of catenary and dislocate much more at the Blaak around noon on the 20th of February. Until past 21:00 that evening no tram traffic was possible in the wide vicinity of this hub.
It was not only NS that was hit by the sudden bankruptcy of PFA Weiden. SUN (Sneltram Utrecht Nieuwegein) had a number of its trams on the premises for reconstruction and upgrade and experienced severe delay in the execution of this work. The work on these vehicles has as yet not restarted, causing stock shortage and scheduling problems at SUN as well. This leads to an NS trick in the operations, a two-unit train splits halfway in a section, one for Nieuwegein Zuid and one for IJsselstein.


By Paul Stoddart-van der Maaden
Following on from the mP articles, and for those stamp collectors amongst you, I have listed the stamps and First-Day-Covers (FDC) issued by the Dutch Philatelic Bureau with railway themes.
Year : 1964.
Title : Spoorweg-jubileumzegels.
Values : 15ct, black and green (Cat.No.818).
40ct, black and yellow (Cat.No.819).
Expect to pay Dfl 3.00 for the set.
FDC : Cat.No.E65.
Expect to pay around Dfl 13.00.
Quantity: 201000.
Comments : Issued on the 28th July, remembering the first railway 125 years ago.

Year : 1980.
Title : Traffic.
Value : 60 ct, multi-coloured (Cat.No.1205)
Expect to pay Dfl 1.50 for this stamp.
FDC : Cat.No.E186.
Expect to pay around Dfl 2.50.
Quantity: 535000.
Comments : Issued in a series of three.
Issued on the 26th August 1980, with Traffic and Transportation as the subjects

Year : 1989.
Title : 150 Years Railways.
Values : 55 ct, multi-coloured (Cat.No.1430).
65 ct, multi-coloured (Cat.No.1431).
75 ct, multi-coloured (Cat.No.1432).
Expect to pay Dfl 4.50 for the set.
FDC : Cat.No.E266.
Expect to pay around Dfl 6.00.
Quantity: 245630.
Comments : Series of three.
Issued on 20th June 1989 representing 150 years railways in The Netherlands.

I have also included illustrations of specialist FDC’s issued to commemorate the completion of both the Schiphollijn in May 1996 and the Flevolijn in May 1988.

By Ralph Hanley
Following a ‘phone call from Paul, I signed up for a weekend trip to the swap meet at Houten, and EuroSpoor at Maastricht. The party consisted of Paul, Phil [car provider], Kjell and myself. We all descended on Paul, for a short rest and a meal. Railway enthusiasts wives are a special breed, who else would tolerate an intrusion of hungry enthusiasts to be housed and fed, and be up at midnight to make coffee all in good humour. The opportunity was taken to check over the operation of Paul’s HO layout, and to identify any urgently needed rolling stock and motive power. Midnight, our departure time, came quickly and so onto the Euroshuttle. This at 03:00 in the morning was hardly a venue of hilarity and fun. Our shuttle left at 03:40, with the tobacco runners night shift, and ourselves to Calais. Dawn replaced the night on a misty Pas de Calais and Flemish countryside. Comfortably sat in the back of Phil’s Mercedes Kjell and I missed some of the exciting countryside to Antwerp. Paul by then was threatening action to keep us all awake.
Once in Holland an essential diversion was made to St. Willobrod for necessary supplies of wine and other items, then onto Houten for the serious business of the trip. Houten is essentially a large model market, with new and second-hand stock. There are no operating layouts, other than a “test track” for ones purchases. This was quite an event, in two halls - each the size of a football pitch, with crowds 2 to 3 deep around most stands. The visit resulted in some Belgian motive power and rolling stock for my own [and others!] layouts. Overall the prices were very reasonable, often negotiable with an excellent selection of merchandise.
At 15:00 Houten closes, so then onto Maastricht, and to enjoy the Dutch scenery. The trip identified several scenic backdrops for an NS layout. Comparison of purchases in the front seats generated comments from behind, such as “right for Maastricht Phil.... Right..... RIGHT!” Having located our hotel, [DeDolen], for the night, an inspection was obviously required at the station. The evening was fairly quiet, but we had the opportunity to supervise the arrival and departure of the 18:29 Maastricht - Amsterdam hauled by an NS Class 1700. The sidings contained several withdrawn NS 1100’s and Siks. A small variation was the two coach SNCB type 66’s for Liege. Dinner was enjoyed in the station buffet.
Sunday, bright and early to the exhibition hall at Maastricht. This was a delight being early, as the Dutch are traditional late risers on a Sunday, [probably to compensate for being early six days a week]. The exhibition was smaller than Utrecht [about 60 % the size], but with many of the same layouts. In particular Mike Sharman's French 1860s and the Belgian clubs long [20m?] layout. [I am intrigued as to where the alpine peaks featured in one of the sections are located in Belgium]. For those with space problems, I saw the ideal solution for a layout; one of the Dutch exhibitors featured his layout in a caravan. Most of the layouts were HO, but there was a good representation of N. Dutch layouts predominated, but were supplemented by some from the US and UK. As with Houten, there was new and second hand stock for sale. Tools were also found to be cheaper than in England.
Fortunately there were no cash point machines in either hall, which helped finances for a future trip. All the same essential new motive power and rolling stock was successfully procured, that is until another day!

From Ralph Hanley
Main Articles:
Along the Vestre in the summer of 1962; Ex SNCB Budd multiple units in Italy; SNCB series 26 in service; PFT Rail Trip to Maroco October 2000.
Locomotive News:
Withdrawals: 8466 at end December following major hydraulic failure.
5947, 5950, 7601 and 7615 in January following an accident at Remicourt (see below).
As from October all Class 15s are now allocated to Kinkempois shed. 2305 and 2344, which were involved in an accident at Stockem last January, are nearly repaired for service. The private Italian Company FSS have asked SNCB to sell the remaining Class 25’s; a price of Bfr 25m is quoted. The arrival of the new type 77s will probably soon see the withdrawal of the remaining series 71, 75, 84 and 85. 5130 and 5148 will probably be withdrawn following major damage to their diesel motors. Four other series 55, in addition to 5526, have been modified to haul the “Rhine Steel “ cargoes. 6233 hit a truck at the notorious level crossing at Renaix. 8466 and 8501 are out of service, possibly awaiting withdrawal following damage to their hydraulic transmission systems.
The old station at Mont-St-Guilbert has been demolished, and replaced by a simple brick building. The new station at Galmaarden commemorates the earlier miners with two mock pit winding towers incorporated in the building. Air France have terminated their Paris - Bruxelles flights being unable to compete with Thalys. The new Station at Liege Guillemins is planned to have a very large sweeping arch, designed by a Spanish architect. Work is proceeding to schedule with the infrastructure for the TGV links to Holland and Germany. Antwerp Central station currently provides an excellent observation of maximum capacity utilisation with the number of trains using 3 platforms.
Two ballast trains hauled by two Class 59’s and two Class 76’s working on the new TGV line installation collided near Remicourt. One driver was killed and one seriously injured. The impact was such as to destroy the two Class 59s. The two workshops at Luttre and Monceau closed at the end of December. Luttre produced the 1100 series Benelux engines, whilst the old workshop at Monceau repaired freight wagons. A new wagon workshop at Monceau, and a new engine workshop at Charleroi South are replacing these.

Main Articles:
New series 77 Diesel SNCB locomotives; End of the SNCB “Sous Marins” series 71 Diesel locomotives; Belgian Autorails; SNCB type 98 steam locomotives; Recent Belgian tram news; Update on the TGV works, [predicting that by 2005 Amsterdam to Koln will be 100 minutes]; Nuremberg 2001 summary.
Other items:
Line 147 [Fleurus to Auvelis] will soon be reinstated; SNCB have put 6 old type Gbs at Bruge to encourage Graffiti artists away from service stock, these wagons have been well decorated! SNCB are now back in “the Red”; SNCB have approved the purchase of 300 new wagons type Sgnss; The private HGK diesel locomotive No. DE 61 has been in SNCB service between Ath and Silly.

From Ralph Hanley
The 75th anniversary of SNCB has produced a large range of Belgian models. The majority of models listed are HO unless otherwise noted.
[1] Specials: [English is generally spoken or understood at the sites below.]
SNCB Series 51 this special series is available from Jocadis, Enghein, Tel:
SNCB Series 60 [in Epoxy] on either a Roco or Marklin chassis is available from Hobby Verborgh, Bruges costing 7,950 Bfr for Roco option or 8,495 Bfr for the Marklin version. Tel: for details.
CFL Velo Carriage a limited issue of 250 has been produced by Model Shop, Luxembourg Ville, for details call 00.352.40.7232, [Ref. L309390-2]
CFL Series Z2 EMU’s by Roco are scheduled to be available in 2002 in a limited run from MBSL Strassen, Tel: 00.352.31.1519 to reserve and details.
SNCB Type 64 steam engine on a Fleischmann P8 base is available as a Kit from PB Messing, Ranst for more details Tel:
Two SNCB type 70 with different lights and shed allocations are available from TTM Models for more details Tel:
Oostende Tram series 9480 - 9484 are available from Line Breaker Tel
[2] Production items:
Arnold are releasing SNCB partitioned wagons with “Railtrans” logo, tilting discharge wagon “B-Cargo”, and Bavarian steam loco S 3/6 numbered 3649, [used to run in Belgium 1919 to 1922]
Brawa “N” & “HO” have released refrigerated wagon “Interfrigo” mark 3.
Dom Models have an NS Restaurant and a sleeping car.
Ferivan will have a limited issue [50] of early Bruxelles tram Standard 1002 and its trailer available only from Brandt, Bruxelles, Tel: for details.
Hodl-Linie has produced a version of the latest Amsterdam/Antwerp/Gent multi-carriage trams.
Jouef, release of the SNCB and CFL series 1300/3000 is yet again delayed, due to their focus on SNCF models. However Jouef have released a Kit for “Cafe de la Gare” which would “fit” on a Benelux model.
Kibri are planning to produce a station Kit for the SNCB type II station “Mignault” in addition to a series of typical Belgian / Dutch houses. [Schedule is end 2000].
Lemaco, for those of wealth have produced a superb SNCB series 18 in two different liveries. Prices are around 50,000 Bfr.
Liliput have released a steam locomotive similar to DB 52, but with small modifications and logos to become a SNCB type 26. In addition Liliput have a closed SNCB wagon type 2212 B O inscribed, “Transport des Poissons” and a flat bed “ferry boat”
Lima has improved the motors in the SNCB type 11, 15, 18, 21 and 27. In addition an improved version of the SNCB M4 is available and an NS 1300 with improved motors in 2 colour versions.
NSM have re-liveried their “Gros Nez” into SNCB [type 54] and CFL colours in a limited series of 50. Detailing is superb as is reflected in the cost of 42,000 Bfr.
OsKar have a rake of SNCB M4 coaches in off white and blue, this includes a baggage coach. These are also available in the blue “Railtour” version. Two flat bed wagons are planned for later this year.
Peco now have a three-way point in code 75.
Roco also plan a series 54 [with yellow] band towards the end of the year, and also a CFL version, [potentially less cost than NSM]. In addition a new series of freight wagons is planned and they are planning to release three NS sand wagons.
Not “new” but Vemi have an excellent selection of Dutch buses to enhance ones station forecourt.
New Books:
“ Un Siecle de Vapeur” [SNCB] PFT editions price 988 Bfr.
“ Spoorwegen in Nederland 1996” Uitgeverij Uquilair price 60 Dfl.
“ La SNCB a 75 Ans”, editions PTF, price 2,995 Bfr.
“ Balade Ferroviaire en Belgique” editions do Cabri price 1,450 Bfr.
Journal du Chemin de Fer # 121
Main Articles
Detailed look at the new double decker SNCB type M6 carriages, Complete listing of the SNCB diesel shed allocations, Detailed report of the new SNCB series 41 DMU’s, Summary of the SNCB steam type 97 tank locomotives, Update on the new TGV track installation, The end in sight for the SNCB series 25, with details of this class, Update on Belgian trams.
Other Items,
SNCB series 84 are gradually being taken out of service, with most being stored at Antwerp Dam, Four of the new 77 series have been transferred from Antwerp Nord to Charleroi Sud, Thalys plans its maiden trip from Bruxelles to Marseilles on 16 June, with a scheduled timing of 4 hr 30 min, CFL series 1800 are all being repainted in their original colours, [Bordeaux and Yellow], SNCB series 20 are replacing series 51 and 20 on freight between Antwerp and Montzen.
Model News [Journal & Train Minature],
Roco have released a new version [HO] of the “Interfrigo” banana vans, Ref. No: 46882, also two versions of the SNCB closed wagon type G10, either in green or brown, Ref. Nos.: 47275 or 47274
Train Minature has tested the Marklin SNCB type 81 steam locomotive HO scale; this received an excellent report. This model is numbered 81.232.
For a really authentic Belgian/Dutch addition to a station layout, Langley have issued a Friture/Friterie in kit form, their address is Three Bridges Road 166, Crawley, Sussex, RH10.1LE, [Tel: 01293.516329].
Model shop Hobby 2000 in Liege has a limited edition of Roco SNCB open wagon [HO] in green, reference number 47292.2.
The May/June edition of Train Minature has a detailed report on a layout for “La Panne” in eastern Belgium. In addition a detailed article about constructing Belgian stations.
LS Models are planning 3 [HO] versions of the SNCB K4 carriages, First, Second and Buffet. These were mainly in service on the Oostende - Cologne service.

By Neil Sutton
The following is a short review of the Marklin/Trix model of the Belgian class 22 electric in HO scale.
The class 22 general-purpose locomotives were placed into service on the Belgian State Railways (SNCB/NMBS) commencing in 1954. At that time they were classified as class 122, when SNCB renumbered on the 1/1/1970 they became class 22. Fifty locomotives were built of which 49 are still in traffic today and are among the oldest locomotives in Belgium. They have been very reliable and are regarded by SNCB as indestructible!
Marklin's first model was of an era III locomotive numbered 122.028 this was released in 1999 only one production run was made and was awarded model of the year by Febelrail the Belgian Railway Society. In 2000 Marklin announced an era IV model in yellow and blue livery. As soon as I read about this model I decided that I must have one, the good news was Trix were producing a 2-rail model (Cat no. 22723). Which saved me the hassle of buying a 3-rail locomotive and then having it converted to 2-rail DC. The UK list price for the Trix model was over £160, however I purchased my one from a shop in Germany via the Internet for about £110 including postage!
The model looks excellent in its yellow and blue colours, I am surprised Marklin chose this numbered locomotive to model as it was repainted to standard blue and yellow livery in 1992, where as some (e.g. 2220) lasted until 1998. The model runs very, very smoothly, the pantographs, are the most realistic I have seen in model form. It is powered by the standard Trix/Marklin DC 5 pole motor which is fitted to one of the bogies. Current pickup is either from the pantographs or the track. The switch to change between track and overhead wires is located inside the body shell on the main circuit board. To aid adhesion, two traction tyres are also fitted on the power bogie.
The model is finished in ex-works condition with very clear crisp lines. Printing details are very fine, and are all of course readable including "revision dates" and even the works plate. As supplied the loco is fitted with NEM pockets, so it will take any coupling you choose to fit. Should you not want to fit couplings, a front valence is supplied, as are air pipes for you to fit. These are the only bits that are included (not the large pack that comes with a Roco model these days).
Dimensionally the model is nearly spot on as the table below shows: -
Prototype HO scale Model
Length including buffers 18000 mm 206.8 mm 207 mm
Distance between bogie centre’s 8600 mm 98.9 mm 97.5 mm
Distance between axle's 3450 mm 39.7 mm 39.6 mm
Wheel diameter 1250 mm 14.4 mm 15.6 mm
Between buffer centre’s 1755 mm 20.2 mm 20.4 mm
Body shell Width 2915 mm 33.5 mm 33.3 mm
Height 3775 mm 43.2 mm 43 mm
The model has proved very popular, and there have been 2 production runs so far. This years version of the model is produced as a class 23 in green livery, I have one of these on order, again from a shop in Germany as the UK dealers are charging "silly money".
Models produced so far: -
1999 release
Number: 122.028, Era: III (1954 to early 1960's), Livery: 2 Tone Green.
Versions: -
3-rail AC: Marklin 33231, 3-rail Digital: Marklin 37231, 2-rail DC: Trix 22596.
2000 release
Number: 2201, Era IV/V (mid 1970's to 1999), Livery: Yellow and Blue.
Versions: -
3-rail AC: Marklin 33232, 3-rail Digital: Marklin 37232, 2-rail DC: Trix 22723.
New for 2001
Number: 2321, Era IV (1970 to 1992), Livery: Dark Green, with silver band.
Versions: -
3-rail AC: Marklin, 3-rail Digital: Marklin 37233 Twin Loco Pack (2321+2372), 2-rail DC: Trix 22749.
If you are interested to learn more about the class 22 family I can recommend the book "Les locomotives electriques, Series 22, 23, 25 et 25.5" published by Marklin, priced at 995 Bfr.
I would expect that over the next few years Marklin will bring out a class 25/5 which will be obligatory for all you Dutch modeller’s!

By David Halsall
Hesselink, H.G. (1999), De Nederlandse Stations in oude ansichten deel 1, 160 pp, 205x145 mm., landscape format, hardback, ISBN 90 288 0899x. Zaltbommel: Europese Bibliotheek. £9-95.
Hesselink, H.G. (1997), Spoorwegen in Nederland in oude ansichten, 154 pp, 205x145 mm., landscape format, hardback, ISBN 90 288 2765x. Zaltbommel: Europese Bibliotheek. £9-95.

These two companion pictorial surveys reproduce 156 photographs of Netherlands stations, most or all in the nineteenth century, arranged alphabetically from Almelo to Zwolle (Volume 1), and a further 143 photographs of the Netherlands Railways showing a variety of themes in the early twentieth century (volume 2). The latter include constructional elements, bridges, signalling, staff, electric trains and electrification, locomotives, timetables, publicity material, freight and station rebuilding. Each book has a glossy cover but a non-shiny 'eggshell' finished paper is used for the reproduction photographs inside - a wise choice as varying details show well, especially valuable for the modeller, or for certain details of railway history. Volume 1 was originally published in 1977, and this is now in a fifth edition. Similarly, the first edition of the second volume was published in 1980.
These two attractive volumes are now available in Britain at the very reasonable price of £9-95 each. They should prove fascinating and very helpful to modellers of the Dutch railway scene at a variety of times and places. Each postcard is reproduced on a separate page. Both books have introductions and captions describing the pictures in Dutch.
A few examples of content must suffice. These include the station at Kampen Zuid, neatly almost symmetrical between two windmills (volume 1, p.83); the station at Middelburg (volume 1, p.93), again showing a windmill, as well as a steam train, and Rotterdam's city viaduct, with canal (volume 1, p.111). Volume 2 has an effective panorama of Amsterdam Centraal on its front end papers, but also shows more technical and human details - such as
2-8-0 steam locomotive 4620 in 1935 operating the VAM compost services, samples of varying tickets and orders (pp. 119-125), timetables and diagrams (pp. 93-99, also 101), individual employees - the head conductor (p.74), the station announcer with bell (p. 114), signal staff (pp. 82-83) - and formal and amusing groups of staff (pp. 80-92). There is a variety of steam, diesel and electric locomotives and units - the streamlined 3700 class on p.43 for example makes an interesting comparison with British, German and other streamlined designs for 1930s steam locomotives. A map of employment in the railway workshops in the Netherlands c.1920 (p.70) complements photographs inside the works themselves as well as a clear illustration of Amsterdam Rietlanden steam shed (p. 39).
The two books are fascinating reference sources for nineteenth century and early twentieth century railways in the Netherlands. There is a wealth of pictorial information to help and stimulate the railway historian and the modeller and the pictures create an idea of the atmosphere of the developing and ever-changing railway scene. They are strongly recommended at just under £10 each or less than £20 for the two.
Editors note; the above titles can be obtained from Midland counties Books and Videos, tel. 01455 254450 or on line ordering from the web at www.midlandcountiessuperstore.com. Having phoned them and ordered the above titles I later discovered (from the web site) that there were 2 parts of the stations book available, also by searching I discovered there were similar books about electric trams, horse trams and steam tram all at the same price.


By David Halsall
This two-part article focuses upon the three national railway networks of the Benelux countries:
Belgium National railways (NMBS, Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen, or SNCB, Societe Nationale des Chemin de Fer Belges);
Netherlands Railways (NS, NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen);
Luxembourg Railways (CFL, Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois).
These web sites are aimed primarily at the needs of the customer, and therefore emphasise passenger information such as timetables, fares, and online ticket booking facilities. They also show tourist information, and a limited but useful resume of facts and data about the operator. The home pages of each are coloured attractively, and clearly laid out. You can decide which you prefer - the most abstract is that of NS; this is similar to its earlier mix of the company's blue with areas of yellow, featuring blurs to give the impression of speed, and prominent against a yellow ground, top right, a blue NS logo. Small pictures portray the initial pathways you can follow. The Belgium home page features a train in new passenger livery, and Luxembourg shows a more traditional scene of the castle. The Belgium and Netherlands sites were discussed briefly by Haydock in Today's Railways last August 1 and this article develops upon this foundation. Don’t forget that in the UK, Hollandrail is the sales agent for NS. For information on tickets, timetables, tourist details, see http://www.hollandrail.com
NS (www.ns.nl)
The web site is divided into five options -
Reisinfo provides domestic and international journey planners. These are excellent in operation: clear, easy to use, quick and accurate and are available in English. There is a gentle irony in the direction on ferries to England - click on 'no high speed trains'!
Treinkaartjes provides ticket information and booking.
Internationaal deals with journey planning of daytime and overnight services, and online ticketing, gives information on European railways, and includes a section which is very useful to the enthusiast, Rail Link, detailed below.
Er-op-Uit! Suggests places to visit and leisure activities/attractions, zoo parks, museums, towns, festivals, entertainment, and places to walk and cycle. This section is in Dutch, as is
Over NS, the final section about NS. This material describes the profile, organisation, finances, structures of NS, and also gives job vacancies.
Rail link (http://www.ns.nl/internationaal/journaal), part of the 'Internationaal' section (above), acts as a 'gateway' and includes lists of entries, all live. Click on any title and you will be taken to your choice of overseas railway servers. These include: eighteen official European railway servers, six European online planners, seven further official world-wide sites -Amtrak, Viarail Canada, Australia, South Africa, Bolivia, Estonia, Latvia, and unofficial sites for New Zealand, Japan, China and Canada, the world's fastest trains, museums, other transport, including Berlin and London Transport. A general section, more railway links - lists examples as diverse as Railforum Nederland, Railway Gazette, Russian Railway Ring, Adtranz, German Railways, Norwegian Railway Club and the Grand Canyon Railway! Some of these will be explored in the next article. Rail link also provides an opportunity to visit web sites of model railway manufacturers - Marklin, Roco, Trainfinder, Vollmer, Brawa, Fleischmann and Piko.

By Peter van der Mark
A cartoon, depicting closed doors with a father and son staring at it and with the text ‘railway museum closed due to all rolling stock put back in service again’, was widely spread throughout the reaches of NS. The situation became more or less true when museum loco 1202 picked up plan W museum coach 50 84 21 37 472-1 and took it away to Haarlem works for reinstatement UFN.
Throughout the years that I grew up and lived in The Netherlands there was one thing which to me was always clear. The Netherlands Railways were perhaps not a very exciting and fast railway which merited nomination in boy's books. They were a public servant dominated, dull and not a particularly friendly and perhaps at times not an altogether really customer orientated kind of railway in the way we understand the meaning of that term nowadays. But they certainly worked. They transported the customers with a stoic reliability, which only occasionally was really upset, such as during the rare major accidents or particularly harsh winters when points and trains just froze up despite the measures taken, and trains welded their pantographs to the ice-covered wires and pulled the catenary down. Harassed NS managers and sometimes the minister appeared on TV to explain what went wrong and generally got forgiven on the promise of doing better next time round. Under these circumstances the NS management was able to convince the governments of the seventies and eighties that the railways were worth investing taxpayers money in and as a result, right up to the time that I left the country in 1989, NS developed into a benchmark for successful high density train operations, admired throughout Europe and beyond. Do not forget; it wasn't the Swiss who introduced an all-week, frequent, nation-wide all-lines clock face departure type of operations first, it was the dear old NS.
Next to a thorough organisation of the operation, one of the other pillars on which this edifice of reliability rested was a keen appreciation of what it takes to run a railway. It was a positive esteem of the disciplined work to be done throughout the organisation and of why it had to be done. It was also the purchase and proper maintenance of reliable equipment to do the job with, and to train people sufficiently to make sure that they could work effectively with the equipment they had. And last but not least it was a set up of services in such a manner that while people and equipment were worked hard, they were not overworked. Complete failures and accidents were mercifully rare. There was also an ethos to deliver the services in the safest possible manner; the early introduction of ATP throughout the network with its heavy financial penalties was a direct result. It will be appreciated that the integration of the various departments within the company was very important to reach this kind of reliability, but as said, the reward was a rather reliable and convenient passenger railway operator that on the whole enjoyed high esteem among the customers. Then I moved to England.
At that time in Britain, traditional political ill will towards BR had culminated into the introduction of the accountant type of manager directly into the operations, with the remit to make them even less of a burden on the treasury. Not unduly weighted down with insight into the why's and how's of the railway organisation as it functioned, they quickly spotted all sorts of practices which were inefficient, costly or superfluous and could be done much cheaper by outsiders under competition, leaving the core business of transporting to the operators which would by then be nearly profitable. This introduced the break up and sell off, and the ensuing contract culture, into the railways of Britain. Initially it looked like heading for success and indeed and many across the North Sea did take note, not in the least the Dutch.
It took little time, however, to notice that the separated management of infrastructure and operations generated a fair amount of friction within the organisation due to the competing profit objectives of each separate facilities provider. Costs and tempers skyrocketed when it was discovered that items, which previously were a cost factor within the complete picture of service delivery, now became a cost plus profit mark-up with contract induced financial risk elements on top for each company involved. This, together with competition anxieties, badly hampered co-operation and thus service delivery. As virtually nothing could be done on the spur of the moment anymore, the railways were quickly branded incompetent and greedy, putting profit before service. The new order set a train in motion, which in Britain so far has reached its zenith with the crash at Hatfield. Profit protection motives troubled communications and shirked responsibilities within the circles of the track owner and the contracted rail maintenance providers caused another major derailment, this time with real casualties. In The Netherlands things haven't come quite that far as yet, likely due to the much better general health of the railway there.
As the impact of European directives about separation of infrastructure and operations came to be felt, while the railways in The Netherlands were a heavy burden on the treasury indeed. It was thought in government circles that something similar to what was done in Sweden and Britain could be a good thing in The Netherlands too. A committee with a strong financial background was duly set up (the Wijffels committee) which not surprisingly found that the NS too was unnecessarily expensive and inefficient and that most of it could be transformed into dynamic, customer orientated and profitable separate outfits. So NS was commercialised in order to be privatised later and the well-structured and integrated company was smashed into- and sold off in bits, all bar the passenger transport provider. This one was teetering on the brink when Ladbroke Grove happened in England and the Dutch gave in to cold feet about the safety of privatised railway operations, using a foreign incident to save face about the U-turn. Private companies in Sweden, incidentally, have recently used Hatfield to force through such a policy U-turn about tendered track maintenance.
In the meantime the disintegration of NS, fostered by the inevitable managerial empire building, misunderstanding and irritation within circles now forced to work within the contract environment where formerly a phone call would have done, had already started to work its wonders. The maintenance side, once closely co-operating with the operational side and normally staying ahead of trouble, now waited until an operator contracted them to do something. The often-mentioned havoc caused by the wheelset crisis was one of the results. The affected types of trains went into the sidings en masse, the initially non-affected types were flogged to hell and back to keep services going and virtually all of them now have problems. The daily shortage of coaches is still crippling two years after the onset of the initial troubles. Attempts at service recovery has cost NS bucket loads of wasted money through having to do up its own as well as other operators' hired in old kit for the remaining few years of its life.
The dissatisfied customers and policy makers are complaining while NS appears impotent in the face of its rapidly declining loss of goodwill. Worse, NS actually manages to give the impression that it doesn't really care about it. It has seemingly wilfully alienated the crucial good relationship with the public and government by venting rather customer unfriendly opinions on what customers can expect, and by ignoring transport policies as soon as it felt it wouldn't get a timely and sufficient return on investment. The government itself, strangely enough, seems unable to do anything at all about the bouts of misbehaviour and mismanagement of the organisation. No one is really happy with the situation bar the accountants, as NS is affluent through a great regard for the financial side of its operations. That financial hoard, incidentally, initially to be used to make privatisation more successful before it was cancelled, was the basis of the adventure into the British franchise markets. Now it is buying, among other things, lots of DD-IRM.
The Public Relations depths have so far been plumbed by four major incidents in the most recent months and which have left a lot of people fuming. Firstly, the wheelset crisis and its consequences, which have been written about many a time in Nieuwsbrief.
Secondly, on-train staff, aggravated by the constant battering of discontented passengers, by the ever increasing loss of esteem and of variety in their work and by the long shifts and non-abating overtime demands, kicked their subservient unions into the bin and set up workers collectives and went into a series of wildcat strikes. In good tradition they let the wrong banner under which to fight be pressed upon their struggle. This made it look like it was all about boredom through loss of routes worked, which understandably did not really touch the hearts of the frustrated customers and the media to any great extent. It did the railwaymen no good at all and merely compounded the already rather bad image of NS as a whole. The NS management from their side, interestingly, managed to not make any mileage out of this. They positioned themselves as scathing toffs and refused anything that remotely looked like genuine conciliation, even when rationally prudent, and felt sufficiently certain of themselves to keep the strike misery going over the back of the suffering customers by openly taunting staff.
Thirdly, came a number of understandably ill-managed ATP/ resignalling exercises in the east of the country, the results of which severely harmed the interests of users and which brought NS on a direct collision course with the harassed Department of Transport due to breach of contract. Again NS, being in fact only half-responsible for this disaster, dourly profiles itself as not really being interested in the well being of its customers.
The fourth big and utterly public PR crash for NS happened last "Koninginnedag", the last day of April and nominally the birthday of the Queen. This day is traditionally, especially in Amsterdam, used as a reason to turn the city into one partying giant free-market. While all traffic bar the trams is stopped, the streets are lined with thousands of arts and dance performance stalls, music stalls, food stalls and most of all junk and trade stalls. It is one mega boot sale and normally is a lovely, exciting experience, looked forward to throughout the nation and the neighbouring regions. Logically NS would be expected to run quite a few extra trains, lengthen the booked services and put a lot of extra staff in place as they did in previous years.
Did they? Well, sort of, but not with any great zeal as it used to be in my days. As a result the overloaded trains ground to a halt outside a jammed Amsterdam Centraal Station. People consequently pulled the emergency handles, left the trains and walked, stupid, undeniably, but predictable. Amsterdam main line rail transport just stopped dead right there on this important day and did not get back to work until very much later in the evening, too late for too many to even get home. The frustration quickly overloaded in front of a closed down Centraal Station and riot police had to be called out, which quickly led to some very ugly scenes indeed.
I have to conclude that NS simply, but predictably within the commercial remit they had pressed upon them and accepted as gospel, has become hell-bent on the financial side and has lost the plot about the reason for its existence. In the light of the things said earlier that is quite painful. For this reason I think it is positive that the FirstGroup/NS bid for South West Trains fell through, as gaffes and cock-ups like those mentioned above would have posed a major risk on the South Western.