From the start of the COVID-19 crisis, NS has always, from a sense of social responsibility, endeavoured to keep providing transport services for people in crucial professions and essential journeys. We collaborated with parties including the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, regional authorities, ProRail, other carriers and consumer associations to keep public transport services running in a responsible manner. During the ‘intelligent lockdown', NS managed to keep one AH To Go store or Kiosk open at each station, enabling passengers and staff to buy snacks and drinks at the station.
From day one we decided to join forces with other carriers in the Dutch public transport sector. In the second half of March, NS established the CMO, its internal crisis management organisation. We arranged and maintained external contacts through the CMO, while the NS Corona Expert Team, part of the CMO, elaborated the measures into scenarios for implementation by the various business units. Consultation platforms in which NS participates include:
In this platform, coordinated by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, NS collaborates with regional carriers, municipal and regional public transport organisations, passengers’ association ROVER, non-central public transport authorities and others. NOBV+ deals with issues such as scaling down and scaling up train services, measures at the stations and in the trains, face mask requirements, enforcement, bike on the train policy, and adjusted timetables at schools and universities to help students avoid peak hours in public transport. The government has drawn up a ‘Protocol for Continued Responsible Travel in Public Transport’.
NS is a member of OV-NL, a Dutch public transport sector association that looks after the interests of carriers. During the COVID-19 crisis, OV-NL serves as an important centre of information for media and other parties, for example on COVID-19 measures and safe travel.
OV-NL Security Working Group
The OV-NL Security Working Group focuses mainly on enforcement and regulatory aspects of new measures and scenarios, and the associated coordination policies. In addition, it accommodates structural consultation with the police, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and, sometimes, the Ministry of Justice and Security. For example, this working group arranged the exemption from obligatory face masks for public transport employees: they can also wear a facial screen.
Creativity during the COVID-19 crisis
Despite its devastating effects, the COVID-19 crisis also generated a great deal of energy and creativity. For example, NS produced 80 feeder systems for emergency artificial respiration equipment in hospitals. We did so at our workshop in Haarlem, which is normally used for upgrading trains. Where catering outlets at the stations had to be closed down, we donated food and drink to local charities such as food banks.