Dialogue with our stakeholders in the Netherlands
In addition to daily contact with passengers, NS maintains close relations with many different partners and stakeholders. Thanks to this dialogue, which is based on trust, we are able to jointly seize opportunities, identify risks at an early stage and, if possible, mitigate them. These talks also provide valuable expertise and ideas for our organisation and for better, more sustainable services for our passengers. The permanent dialogue provides input for the steps we are considering to keep the Netherlands accessible in a sustainable manner, for everyone.
Our stakeholders are the people or groups who are affected by our actions and who, in turn, influence our organisation and services. NS is continuously monitoring who the stakeholders are. The nature of our contacts with stakeholders is determined in some cases by legislation (government ministries and regulatory authorities), in some cases by collaboration in the transport sector (carriers, ProRail) and in other cases by the public nature of our service (passengers, politics, the media and interest groups). Some stakeholders are on the scene only temporarily in connection with specific subjects, but their input too can be relevant and we take it seriously. We organise sessions with stakeholders on specific themes or promote a broad stakeholder dialogue on the course of NS. Last year the focus was on the timetable reduction and the price of our train tickets, among other things. The dialogues with our stakeholders take place at various levels within the organisation, with the Executive Board often being involved. This enables us to build trust.
Collaboration in the transport sector
We work with partners in the transport sector to ensure an optimum door-to-door journey for our passengers. This collaboration features prominently at all levels of our organisation, in terms of strategy as well as operations, and with due regard for the long-term vision drawn up in the Mobility Alliance on improving and optimising mobility within the Netherlands.
Vision for the Future of Public Transport up to 2040
National and regional parties continue their joint efforts to make a significant contribution to the societal challenges associated with accessibility and liveability in the Netherlands. Our contributions have been compiled in various rail transport corridor studies, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) manifesto and an Action Agenda for Public Transport Hubs. They are the fruits of many years of study and collaboration under the programme known as the Vision for the Future of Public Transport up to 2040 (TBOV2040).
Passengers have a significant interest in the continued development of the public transport network and hubs. We are pleased, therefore, that in late 2022 several components of the TBOV development agenda were translated into concrete investment agreements within the MIRT framework. Examples include the extension of the North-South Line to Hoofddorp and the new stations between Leiden and Dordrecht (such as Rotterdam Stadionpark).
Tailored regional solutions
NS serves the whole of the Netherlands. We aim to meet the needs of the various regions, while ensuring smooth connections within the Netherlands and with other countries. In 2022, NS hosted several more ‘regional management dinners’. During these dinner sessions, regional administrators and the NS Executive Board discussed their shared ambitions and challenges and collaboration between the various regions and NS.
NS is struggling with staff shortages and, for that reason, decided to scale down its timetable. We are engaged in intensive dialogue on this issue with our stakeholders. We keep them abreast of our choices and explain why we make them. Conversely, we bring our regional stakeholders’ concerns in connection with the timetable to the attention of the Executive Board.
We also maintain our focus on the continued development of the public transport rail infrastructure and the role of the train in the accessibility programmes. Regional authorities are very interested in hub development (mobility hubs), also with a view to their need for new homes and international rail connections. Regional authorities in the Netherlands are facing major tasks and complex challenges, such as housing construction and the associated accessibility and mobility issues. NS can make a key contribution to help solve these issues. NS is keen to intensify its collaboration with provincial and regional authorities by jointly developing plans and implementing measures.
Dilemmas in the discussions
By sharing dilemmas with stakeholders at an early stage, NS seeks to provide insight into our considerations and jointly reach solutions. We provide our stakeholders with feedback about their ideas and recommendations and the effect that the dialogue has had on NS policy, both in regular discussions and thematic sessions and in reports. The aim is that passengers overall should benefit from this, although there will inevitably be passengers for whom any given choice has an adverse effect. We have contacts with consumer organisations to address these dilemmas. Over the past year we consulted with our stakeholders on a range of issues, including the timetable, product portfolios and accessibility.
Consultations with the trade unions
NS attaches great importance to good relations with the trade unions. In September 2022, NS agreed with the trade unions on a new CLA that runs from 1 July 2022 until 1 January 2024. The talks were held in the context of broader social developments such as labour market shortages and high inflation rates. The capacity problem - an NS-specific theme that has resulted in high work pressure among our staff - also played a role in these talks. In the past year, NS and the unions also discussed issues such as organisational changes, a temporary reduction of our timetable, the pension scheme and temporary solutions to the capacity problem.
Case study: hub development
Many regions in the Netherlands are facing substantial challenges. For example, now that the coronavirus crisis is over, congestion on the nation's roads is returning to pre-pandemic levels. The housing construction challenge facing many municipalities also calls for high-quality transport connections to and from the new housing estates. At the national level, we are confronted with a huge climate challenge. Stations that serve as mobility hubs where passengers can change to other trains or continue their journey by bicycle or bus can play a key role in tackling all those challenges. The same applies to shared mobility services.
This is why NS frequently consults with municipal and provincial authorities in the joint search for solutions that serve the interests of their inhabitants. In the Randstad-Noord region, for example, we are working to reduce the parking capacity standards for stations. In Breukelen we have explored the development of residential and business functions around the station, which may serve as a regional hub for transport in the direction of Amsterdam and Utrecht.
In the South region we are developing the hubs formed by the stations of Roosendaal, Oss, Best and Eindhoven, while in Vlissingen we are participating in a project on autonomous transport. In the Northeast region we are developing the stations of Kampen-Zuid and Steenwijk into regional hubs.
Together with its partners, NS is examining the feasibility of these hubs, their impact on the timetable and their contribution to a lively atmosphere in the station areas.
Case study: New Generation Intercity
Together with train manufacturer Alstom, NS is engaged in the development, testing and introduction of the New Generation Intercity (ICNG). These 99 new Intercity trains will provide a total of 33,000 seats. Right from the start of this project, NS involved its stakeholders in the introduction of the ICNG, from a working visit to the 3D facility of train manufacturer Alstom in France to the first mock-up in Amersfoort and the presentation to the general public in Rotterdam on 2 and 3 July 2022.
2022 saw the start of the extensive testing and training programme in the Netherlands, following intensive testing on the test tracks in the Czech Republic and the climate facility in Vienna. NS closely collaborated with ILT for the purpose of a smooth admission process. And with Alstom, NS joined forces to ensure the careful and reliable introduction of these new trains.
The ICNG was presented to the public on one of the platforms at Rotterdam Centraal for two days, on Saturday 2 and Sunday, 3 July. Colleagues showed as many as 3,500 visitors around the new train. To find out the about the visitors’ experiences, see the NS YouTube channel. Stakeholders - including representatives of consumers’ associations, ProRail and regional and national authorities - were also given a special tour of the train.