In addition to daily contact with passengers, NS maintains close relations with a wide variety of stakeholders. Thanks to this dialogue, based on trust, we are able to jointly seize opportunities and accept or mitigate risks at an early stage. These contacts often lead to our stakeholders providing valuable expertise and ideas for our organisation and for better, more sustainable services for our passengers.
NS is a service-providing company that has a social role at the very heart of society. There is a great deal of interest in our organisation from the public and elsewhere – passengers, media, politicians and other stakeholders. The ongoing dialogue with the parties around us is crucial for NS.
We see our stakeholders as the people or groups who are affected by our actions and who have an effect on our organisation and services. NS is continuously monitoring who our stakeholders are. There can also be stakeholders who are on the scene temporarily for specific subjects – their input can be relevant and we therefore take them seriously.
The nature of our relations with some stakeholders is determined by legislation (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, the media and interest groups). The Council for Sustainable Business discusses who the current and new stakeholders are once every two years. The results are then presented to the Executive Board. This consultation took place again in 2017.
NS is continually talking to the main stakeholders: organisations representing passengers and consumers, ProRail, provinces, municipalities, franchise authorities, the shareholder, staff, the unions, other carriers, politicians, employee participation bodies, suppliers, non-governmental organisations and interest groups within society. We involve them closely and (increasingly often) as early as possible when choices have to be made that affect passengers.
We test ideas and listen to suggestions and criticism so that we can improve our services and products. As a result, we pick up external signs early on that we can then use in our considerations and decisions. The dialogues with our stakeholders take place at various levels in the organisation, with the Executive Board often being involved. This allows us to build up trust.
Working visits from stakeholders
Various stakeholders paid us working visits in the past year. We organised a number of visits, both on request and on invitation, in which we informed stakeholders about our activities and let them experience all that goes on in our round-the-clock transport company. For example, new members of the Dutch parliament visited the High-Speed Line (HSL) and travelled on the IC direct train so that they could experience the train service, infrastructure and security systems first-hand with the drivers.
Representatives of the political parties also took a look behind the scenes at the upgrade workshop in Haarlem and the NS training centre TechniekFabriek, and they did a shift with chief guards in the Safety & Service teams. State Secretary Van Veldhoven (Infrastructure and Water Management) paid an introductory visit to the railways in November. The state secretary visited the renovated Utrecht Centraal station and rode on one of the ‘ten-minute trains’ (high-frequency service) from Eindhoven to Amsterdam.
ProRail, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and LOCOV
NS holds frequent discussions with ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management about items such as cooperative projects, services and performance. In the national public transport users' forum LOCOV, NS regularly has discussions with broadly represented passengers’ and consumers’ organisations. This legally defined forum consists of formal meetings and handles requests for advice on various issues relevant to passengers.
We also organise numerous informal themed sessions and working visits to provide information and consult the members. Recommendations made by consumer organisations represented in LOCOV regularly result in us changing a decision. We bring participating organisations on board such as ROVER, Ieder(in), the KBO union of senior citizens' organisations and the ANWB for topics that have a longer-term impact, for example the purchase of new rolling stock, changes to the timetable, accessibility and interruptions to the service.
In 2017, NS and LOCOV talked to representatives of civil society organisations, scientists and other stakeholders on solutions for reducing crowding during peak periods: what trends and developments doe we see for the years ahead on our roads and in public transport? What solutions are there for providing comfortable journeys during peak periods? Studies and trials are also carried out. For instance, last autumn NS tested whether extending the use of discount travel could help achieve a better spread of demand during peak periods. NS uses the outcomes in its decision-making.
Regarding the accessibility of travelling by train, NS had regular contacts in 2017 with LOCOV, the Eye Association and the interest group Ieder(in). Topics discussed included the accessibility of the Intercity New Generation (ICNG) and the introduction of journey information about accessibility when travelling. NS’s proposal to provide assistance at all stations where NS stops (and where the platform allows it) was discussed a number of times in the LOCOV forum.
NS, ANWB (the Dutch automobile association), RAI and Transport and Logistics Netherlands have joined forces since 2016 in the Mobility Alliance, which aims to keep the Netherlands moving. At the end of 2016, the alliance presented its vision entitled VOORUIT! (‘Forward!’), prompted by a shared sense of urgency because the Netherlands is becoming so congested as well as a realisation that there are opportunities to make mobility in the Netherlands cleaner, smarter and safer. The alliance now includes 23 bicycle, car, transport, public transport and business passenger organisations and its vision has been translated into concrete plans.
Some of these were incorporated in the coalition agreement for the Rutte III cabinet, such as additional money for infrastructure and public transport under this government and pilot projects for alternative forms of transport and payment. The coalition government is also focusing on a more integrated and sustainable transport system in which the separate elements fit seamlessly together. In the past year, the Mobility Alliance organised various meetings with politicians, civil servants and administrative partners of provincial authorities, municipalities and metropolitan regions to put the growing problems with accessibility on the agenda and at the same time identify and facilitate opportunities and solutions. During a working dinner in November, the alliance offered to act as a dialogue partner and sparring partner for the government and administrative partners in the coming period in order to jointly implement concrete measures and plans.
Masterclass: First-class Railway Knowledge
Civil servants and other administrators in municipalities, provinces and urban regions regularly ask NS (via its regional boards) questions about the ‘railway world’. Who takes the decision that a lift should be put in place at the station? How can a municipality get a new station built? What role does NS have in the High-Frequency Rail Transport Programme?
That is why the regional management of NS and ProRail jointly organise First-class Railway Knowledge twice a year. This is a masterclass, usually for a group of 50 to 70 participants, in which we share our knowledge and give civil servants a better understanding of various aspects of the railway system (which can be rather technical). In 2017 we organised masterclasses on track capacity and on the railway of the future.
Dilemmas in the discussions
Informing stakeholders about dilemmas in good time is how NS seeks to provide insights into policy considerations and find joint solutions. We provide our stakeholders with a steady stream of feedback about their ideas and recommendations and the effect that the dialogue has on NS policy, both in the regular discussions and in reports. For example, when drawing up a new timetable we have to make a great many choices. The aim is to have something many passengers will benefit from, although there will also inevitably be groups of passengers for whom any given choice has an adverse effect. We talk to consumer organisations about these dilemmas.
The 2018 timetable primarily incorporates a number of changes to the Amsterdam-Eindhoven corridor. That was the result of increasing the frequency of Intercity trains from four to six an hour, and increasing the number of Sprinter trains from four to six an hour in the broadly-defined peak period for the route between Utrecht Centraal and Houten Castellum. Those changes also had consequences for the timetable in the provinces of Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant and Limburg.
NS has not been able to improve the timetable for all passengers. For example, some passengers in Hoorn now have a longer changeover because of the changes to the trains between Amsterdam and Eindhoven. NS gave a clear picture of the consequences and discussed them at an early stage, investigating several alternatives proposed by consumer organisations and local authorities for reducing the changeover time in Hoorn. All these alternatives had to be rejected because the infrastructure did not allow them or because they had adverse effects on a larger number of passengers. NS therefore decided to run several extra trains at the start and finish of the peak periods to reduce the numbers of passengers with longer changeover times. NS also discussed adjustment measures in the event of disruption between Amsterdam and Eindhoven in the LOCOV forum, which resulted in a better service for Sprinter stations during disruptions.
NS conducted trials every Wednesday last autumn with a high-frequency Intercity service between Amsterdam and Eindhoven. Before the trials started, the consumer organisations were critical of the experiment. In their advice regarding the timetable changes for September, they stated, “We think that the effects of this trial are such that you will be making excessive demands on the adaptability and flexibility of those customers.” Prior to and during the trials, NS informed the consumer organisations of the objectives and results of the test.
This year too, passengers were able to submit questions to the developers of the 2018 timetable via the online forum. Some passengers were more understanding after they heard in these conversations that NS could not find a better solution for some problems. After comments from passengers on the forum, an error in the timetable could be rectified in time: the connection at Zaandam station for the earliest train from Alkmaar to Schiphol had inadvertently no longer been available. We also made several corrections to the journey information in plenty of time before the new timetable came into effect.
Regional case: buses between Zwolle and Kampen
For three months in the summer of 2017, there was a replacement bus service instead of the train service between Zwolle and Kampen because of major engineering work. In the spring of 2017, the passenger organisation ROCOV Overijssel, the province of Overijssel and NS discussed the replacement bus service. ROCOV’s recommendations concerned such matters as the spot where the buses departed, informing passengers and the option of temporarily changing season tickets from Kampen station to Kampen-Zuid. That helped NS deliver a more tailored solution for our passengers. During the first week of engineering work, representatives from ROCOV, the province and NS travelled on the bus back and forth between Zwolle and Kampen. That resulted in concrete improvements for passengers, such as the placement of an additional mobile check-in unit at Kampen station.
Regional case: completing the Accessible Schiphol public transport programme
As one of the initiators, NS took part in the Accessible Schiphol public transport programme from 2015 to mid-2017. In partnership with Schiphol, ProRail, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Amsterdam Transport Region and the municipality of Amsterdam, a cohesive package of measures large and small were introduced over a two-year period to improve access by public transport to Schiphol airport. The measures varied from investments in expanding the capacity of descending and ascending points and reducing train cancellations, through to better journey information on platforms and changes to the tunnel safety regime, which has led to a reduction in the number of major disruptions in the Schiphol Tunnel. The programme included performance monitoring at Schiphol and a number of work conferences with staff from all the parties involved. The programme ended in 2017 as its objectives had been achieved. We are still collaborating with the other partners as part of our regular operations.
Consultation with trade unions
NS attaches great importance to good relations with the trade unions. In mid-June, FNV Spoor went on strike at locations including Arnhem, Nijmegen, The Hague and Zwolle. There was also a spontaneous strike by staff at Amsterdam Centraal station in early July. In consultations between NS and the trade unions CNV, FNV Spoor, VVMC and VHS, an initiative was taken to develop a joint long-term agenda aimed at keeping NS strong. We announced that agenda at the end of July. Its elements include:
Pursuing a sustainable social policy in the short and long term, facilitating staff to the maximum degree possible in reaching the end of their working lives in good health, including investigating the feasibility of an early retirement scheme. This has also been incorporated in the new collective labour agreement.
The role of NS in passengers’ door-to-door journeys.
Innovation, the use of new technology and the impact this has on employees’ day-to-day work.
Strengthening the position of NS where possible in the various regions.
In addition to our regular contacts with stakeholders about day-to-day matters, we are also keen to talk to them about opportunities, threats and trends in the medium term. That is why NS organises national-level meetings with a wide range of stakeholders about our social role and on specific themes where we have an impact. These are themes that concern our stakeholders or NS itself. This lets us facilitate dialogue not only between stakeholders and NS, but also between the stakeholders themselves. This regularly leads to a better understanding of one another’s interests and valuable constructive criticism and ideas for NS.
In September 2017, a stakeholders’ dialogue took place in which a variety of stakeholders discussed the future of NS with one another. This showed that there was a demand for a further extension of NS’s door-to-door strategy. The stakeholders taking part also felt NS could play an even more prominent role in sustainable mobility.
The theme of sustainable mobility was also taken a step further this year in dialogue with the coalition partners of Anders Reizen (‘Travelling differently’), 40 companies with the common goal of improving the CO2 footprint of their own mobility. In 2017, NS and its staff went on a sustainable excursion and took a sustainable ideas workshop. This resulted in over 100 ideas for a more sustainable NS.
We complimented NS and ProRail on the good preparation and execution. We have however seen that when a disruption leads to fewer trains, the Sprinter trains get lower priority than the Intercity trains. That is a choice NS and ProRail have made in order to still be able to transport as many passengers as possible by train. At our insistence, the companies have now changed their adjustment measures in the event of disruption so that Sprinter passengers are not entirely abandoned.
Passengers’ organisation Rover on the ten-minute service
By collaborating as partners at Schiphol, it was possible to achieve improvements jointly for passengers. A good example is the creation of the multimodal tourist ticket and its joint sale and promotion at Schiphol.
Nico van Paridon, Public Transport manager, Amsterdam Transport Region
Transport and Logistics Netherlands (TLN) set up the Mobility Alliance in 2016 in partnership with NS, ANWB and the RAI Association. Now the alliance consists of 25 mobility organisations, ranging from representatives of public transport and passengers to automobiles and freight transport. In the past year, the Mobility Alliance has lobbied hard for a key position in the new coalition agreement for integrated and sustainable mobility, in which it has largely been successful. NS played an important part in this, which shows leadership. But we still have a way to go. What matters now is for NS, TLN and the others to implement the measures and remain the dialogue partner for politicians and the government in the task of keeping the Netherlands accessible and habitable.
Arthur Van Dijk, TLN chair
During my expedition to Spitsbergen, the senior managers, including those from NS, were appalled at how fast the Arctic is changing. Then we all came up with measures to combat climate change. Cooperation is key and NS has done a great deal to help extend the ‘Anders Reizen’ coalition to its current membership of 40 companies. In it, they agree on how to promote cycling, public transport and electric cars, for instance. Incidentally, I like travelling by train when in the Netherlands. It’s sustainable and I can use my time profitably. It’s important to have far more people doing this.
Bernice Notenboom, Arctic explorer, climate journalist and film maker