In 2019, NS Stations and its partners once again made improvements to numerous stations. We invested in facilities to improve the level of hospitality, including facilities at smaller stations. In February 2019, NS announced its intention to refurbish some 200 regional stations. The project will see NS and its partners upgrade waiting facilities at the stations, renovate sanitary facilities and install drinking water fountains. We are also investing in improvements to the parking facilities for cars and bicycles. We are looking for suitable solutions for vacant premises at the stations to improve the atmosphere and personal safety while retaining the distinctive character of the property concerned and taking proper care of our heritage.
Improved waiting area facilities
In 2019, we opened Station Living Rooms (StationsHuiskamers) at the stations in Emmen, Almere Buiten, Weesp, Heerlen, Boxtel, Almere Muziekwijk, Heemstede Aerdenhout and Schagen, bringing their total number to 24. The Station Living Rooms offer visitors a pleasant space with facilities such as coffee/tea, sockets, toilets and journey information. The new Station Living Rooms are housed in the premises previously occupied by Kiosk shops. The former Kiosk employees now serve as hosts in the Station Living Rooms and, as such, are an important point of contact for passengers. In 2020, we will be converting another four Kiosk outlets into Station Living Rooms, mainly at smaller stations. In addition, we are looking for effective ways to improve passengers' experience of the stations while they are waiting for their trains. For example, at Coevorden the new tenant of the vacant station building has reintroduced a coffee and drinks outlet for passengers. The facility also includes toilets and an attractive waiting area. In collaboration with passengers, ProRail, the University of Amsterdam and the Weekend of Science initiative, we examined ways in which waiting areas can improve passengers' perception of waiting. The results of this study will become available in early 2020.
Toilets at our stations
Toilets are an important basic facility for hospitable stations. We are making the toilet facilities safer, more comfortable and more accessible for passengers, with a recognisable service concept. After a franchising tender, NS Stations awarded responsibility for the toilets at 23 larger stations to Sanifair.
Together with ProRail, NS is refurbishing toilet facilities at the smaller stations: as a result, within three years 90% of all passengers will be able to use modern, clean and accessible toilets. We are also introducing high-quality unstaffed toilet facilities at a large number of regional stations. Forty-five of these were taken into operation in 2019. NS Stations is providing contactless payment modules for both newly built and existing toilets. In 2019, 108 of these modules were installed at station toilets.
Water fountains at stations
Together with its partners, NS is rolling out a project to install free drinking water fountains at over 200 stations in an effort to stimulate the use of tap water and help reduce waste from plastic water bottles. The first NS water fountain was installed in October 2018, and the project continued after the winter season. NS installed 189 water fountains in 2019, bringing the total to 241. Since the end of 2019, approximately 90% of all rail passengers in the Netherlands pass a water fountain at some point during their journey. Installed in collaboration with drinking water companies, water fountains are now available at stations in all provinces. NS is investing over €3 million in this project, which covers both installation and maintenance over the next decade.
Voting at stations
In the provincial and European Parliament elections last year, passengers could vote at the station if they so wished. Being able to set up polling stations at train stations is important for municipalities, and for NS as part of its hospitality concept.
Passengers were more positive about the cleanliness of stations: 81% gave a score of 7 out of 10 or higher in 2019, compared with 78% in the previous year. NS Stations is responsible for keeping all stations clean, regardless of which carriers stop at the station. The contracts with the parties that do the actual cleaning are based on result-driven requirements. For example, the agreement on rubbish bins at the stations is that they should never be more than three-quarters full on any given day, rather than that they should be emptied a particular number of times each day. NS has agreed with ProRail, municipalities and other contracting authorities on a required average score of at least 7 (out of 10) for daily cleaning at the stations.