Monthly Archives: Monday March 25th, 2013

Even full HSL usage fails to meet city’s ambitions

The city of The Hague no longer being directly connected to Brussels has exposed a major weakness of the HSL. This weakness is that a high-speed train in the Netherlands has to bypass a number of cities in order to achieve a speed of 300 km / hour.

Therefore the political center of The Hague now lacks a direct connection to the HSL and thus to the political center of Europe. The current travelers have to change trains at Rotterdam CS. As the travel time is longer and you also need to reserve in advance, there is more resistance to actually take the train. Also a last minute train trip for work or pleasure is much more difficult or impossible. Hence the car becomes the not so desirable alternative to travel to Antwerp or Brussels.

The Hague had previously indicated to want a direct connection to Brussels. The decommission of the old BeNeLux service while at the same time the Fyra V250 trainset can’t service Amsterdam-Brussels due to technical problems, created a small opportunity for The Hague. Now there was a direct connection to Brussels from Den Haag HS again. Although it is an emergency solution, it provides in a need of the city of The Hague.

Now the province of Brabant and the city of Eindhoven also want a connection to the HSL. A legitimate ambition. Eindhoven is the technological region of ​​the Netherlands that can benefit from a good connection to Europe.

If we want to make maximum use of the current HSL, four lines can utilise it:
1. Amsterdam CS over conventional rail to the airport, then over the HSL to Rotterdam and Brussels.
2. The Hague CS over conventional rail to Rotterdam, then over the HSL to Brussels.
3. Eindhoven via conventional rail to Breda, then over the HSL to Brussels.
4. From Zwolle via Hanzelijn to Amsterdam Zuid, after Schiphol via the HSL to Rotterdam, Breda and Eindhoven.
But still the HSL is deficient in meeting the accessibility ambitions of cities.

With these 4 lines, the capacity of the HSL is at its maximum utilization but misses opportunities. In all 4 routes high speed trains use the normal track. Although the high-speed, intercity, sprinter, freight and work trains maxime the use of the conventional rail to the extreme, the passengers don’t gain much because the frequency of each train type sees little improvement. And in case of maintenance or emergency, you have a total infarct stopping all train services on that route and long waiting on an alternative. And the airports Den Hague / Rotterdam and Eindhoven are still not connected to the network.

Even if one were to decide to connect Den Haag and / or Eindhoven and the airport to the HSL, it would do little. The characteristics of high-speed trains make for skipping calls at some cities, or not meeting any time savings at all. So a full HSL route to The Hague and / or Eindhoven is not the solution.

The Maglev that Freedom of Mobility Foundation proposes in its vision exeeds the ambition of The Hague and Eindhoven. Not only is the travel time 2-5 times shorter, but also more calls can be made on the route. And the absolute separation from the conventional rail makes Sprinter or maglev train a direct alternative in case of an emergency or maintenance.

New infrastructure also provides opportunities for new connections. The Maglev can connect the airports Den Hague / Rotterdam and Eindhoven directly to Schiphol, but also with Brussels. As soon as Belgium and Germany recognize the benefits of Maglev, this will not only create new opportunities for The Hague and Eindhoven but for all of the Netherlands.

Migration and transport

The February 25th, 2013 broadcast of the VPRO TV documentary series “Tegenlicht” on African migration to China came to an interesting conclusion. A conclusion that I share.

Europe, the Netherlands included, is becoming a fortress for people outside Europe. This closes Europe to refugees. But unfortunately also for ideas, cultures, innovations and willpower that immigration brings.

This development is disastrous for Europe. In Europe, the birth rate is decreasing. Therefore a decreasing number of employed people will have to look after an increasingly older population. At some point, the European working class will no longer able to bear the costs to maintain our current level of prosperity and welfare.

At the same time, more and more other countries are developing fast. Especially the BRIC countries are currently on the rise, but also the African continent’s economy sees increasing growth rates.

Another development is that many more of the future 9 billion people on this planet will be prosperous. Hence investment and financial flows will change accordingly. If we in Europe and the Netherlands do nothing and continue to feel fulfilled in our present prosperity we will rapidly degrade to a second-class economy. With a declining birth rate and increasing expenses, the Netherlands must stay interesting to foreign investors. People who are able to create and innovate and thus help to maintain national and European prosperity and welfare.

The Netherlands is a unique country. Not only because the Dutch mostly created it themselves, but also because there is a lot of green area between our cities and urban regions. There is no big metropolis consisting of a completely built-up area like many other metropolises in the world. Even the Randstad, the region bordered by the 4 largest cities and responsible for half the national economy, contains relatively a lot of green area.

But the Randstad alone does not dominate the Netherlands. The other half of the economy is earned outside the Randstad. Even the smartest region is outside the Randstad. So it is regionally well balanced. Yet the current decline in population and employment in some provinces is worrying. It would be regrettable if regional shrinkage would marginalize the Netherlands.

With fewer taxpayers it will be getting harder to keep Netherlands neat, orderly and free of water.

In the TV program Tegenlicht, Ian Goldin advises Europe to remain attractive to migration and hence maintain or enhance prosperity and welfare levels. This also goes for the Netherlands where immigration can complement the declining birth rate.

History shows that another major factor in regional development is transport innovation. The Dutch golden age (17th century) was not only triggered by immigration, but also by technically advanced vessels and waterways. The industrial revolution was driven by the steam engine and the construction of railways with fast trains for that time. Railways, which today still prove their usefulness.

The Freedom of Mobility Foundation wants to secure the position of the Netherlands in the globalizing world by strengthening the infrastructure. Better and faster connections will rebalance the strong regions and the various provinces.

In a country with more bicycles than people, it makes sense to use the (electric) bicycle for local transport. Bicycling trips are often faster than the typical time spent waiting for a local bus. But the average cyclist covers only short to medium distances. In the vision of the foundation, we extend the range of bicycle by combining it with fast public transport to get the best out of both. For example, we suggest replacing the entire intercity service by Maglev to reduce the travel time between the intercity stations and airports by a factor of 2-5. Such a combination can be a sustainable alternative to the car.

With such improved transport the Netherlands will be a unique metropolis of low-rise buildings, lots of green recreational area, a temperate climate and still connected to the rest of the world. The Netherlands will thus remain interesting for foreign investors and immigration as Ian Goldin advises.

Liberalization of the railways

Europe wants to press on with liberalization of the railways. This means that other rail operators may start passenger service on the Dutch rail network.

The goal of Europe is to increase quality and give passengers a choice by introducing more competition. But there is any real competition on the railways?

Operators make a bid for a concession for a passenger revenue service on a section or region for a fixed period. The many parties providing a concession, namely regional and provincial governments, mainly select the offering that requires the least public money to run the service as requested.

But operators go through great creative lengths in producing the cheapest offer possible. Whatever the result, out of this the passengers only get a monopoly from a certain train operator for a certain period on a line. For them there is no choice.

Some advantages of a new operator are that there are often new vehicles that meet the latest and highest standards of comfort, environment and cost. There is also room for innovation and / or insights.

But the existing employees are also taken over. They only get a different uniform fitted. The passenger with its characteristics also remains the same. A disadvantage of such a concession may be that lines disappear, staff can be cut or employment be tightened. This produces tension with other carriers.

Because of the many decision makers the public transport becomes a clock who’s every cog in the clockwork does its own thing. Then you have an unreliable clock that may show the correct time twice a day, but is pretty useless otherwise…

In public transport it is important that operators work together. The ongoing liberalization without strict control from above will see operators pursue their own interests. A normal reaction because every individual, every department within the company, between companies each have their own interests. Companies or personnel no longer work together, but ask who is going to put up the bill.

Without a governing control, all the operators’ staff must comply with more rules that limit them in improvising in emergencies. Staff cannot decide themselves what to do to serve the passenger best. Despite that the staff have the knowledge to safely do so.

If we want to allow more operators on the railways then there must be a certain vision behind it. A central control that governs on the whole system, sets requirements, takes responsibility and makes decisions about rolling stock and carriers. Just like a clock, the public transport needs someone from outside to synchronize the time. Because from within the clockwork, you cannot see what time it should be. You only get a reliable time from the clock if each cog does exactly what it should do.

Interests of operators must be subordinate to that of the passenger. Furthermore, operators should not get in each other’s way or service the same section. And a passenger has no interest in a particular operator, but decides on the basis of time and place. A single operator must therefore service a whole section.

The Freedom of Mobility Foundation proposes to separate the intercity and local trains. In the vision of the foundation are 9 intercity lines and 16 sprinter lines. Each line is separated from the other. Maglevs run on intercity lines and Interregional Sprinter on the sprinter lines. This allows up to 9 or 16 different operators running these lines.

The governing central control sets requirements for stock and operators such as to eliminate operators own interests overrunning that of the passengers. Operators are therefore solely responsible for the service. This also allows for a single operator to service the whole network, if there is a reason to do so.

The central control also governs the RegioTram, which can be run by several operators. This will reduce transfer and waiting time for the passengers. In short, liberalization of public transport is possible if there is one central control governing the whole system.