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Dutch rail lines may see competition soon


The Netherlands, under warning from the European Commission that it may be violating EU competition rules by keeping nearly all rail traffic for its state-owned NS rail operator, says there are at least three firms that want to open competing services.

Transport Minister Vivianne Heijnen said the three are Qbuzz, owned by Italian state-owned rail operator Trenitalia; Arriva, owned by Germany's state rail operator DB and independent bus and rail operator FlixBus.

Some of the proposals would involve Dutch state money if the competitors bid on route concessions, but under EU 'open access' rules competing operators are free to offer services if they are prepared to pick up all costs.

Arriva's proposal includes an open access route between Groningen in the northern Netherlands and Paris. The train, planned to run daily, would have stops in Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels.

FlixBus, whose FlixTrain service operates a number of routes in Germany, would like to operate from Germany to Rotterdam by next year, with stops in Arnhem, Amsterdam and the Hague.

QBuzz, which operates some local services in the Netherlands, says 2027 is its target date for a Groningen-to-Paris service and routes to Germany.

The segments that include service between Amsterdam and Paris already have non-NS service by Eurostar and Thalys, both majority-owned by French state rail operator SNCF.

UPDATE: In the days following the proposals by outside operators, Dutch state-owned operator filed plans of its own for similar routes, including service to London, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna and Innsbruck. As NS has previously shown no interest in international routes, this may be a defensive move.

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