In addition to daily contact with passengers, NS maintains close relations with many different stakeholders. Thanks to this dialogue, which is based on trust, we are able to jointly seize opportunities and accept or mitigate risks at an early stage. These talks also provide valuable expertise and ideas for our organisation and for better, more sustainable services for our passengers.
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 its 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, the media and interest groups). There can also be stakeholders who are on the scene temporarily for specific subjects – their input 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. We also held such sessions in 2020, for example on the subject of sustainable enterprise.
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 up trust.
Collaboration in the transport sector
We work with partners in the transport sector, such as other carriers and ProRail, 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 an eye on the long-term vision that we drew up in the Mobility Alliance with a view to improving and optimising mobility within the Netherlands. Our intensive collaboration with sector partners is also improving customer satisfaction, thanks to better operational statistics for aspects such as punctuality and the quality of connections, and to improvements in the journey to and from the station.
Vision for the future of public transport up to 2040
If congestion in the Netherlands is to remain manageable, ProRail, travellers' organisations and other stakeholders will have to continue their mutual dialogue. As before, in 2020 NS participated in the efforts to flesh out the Vision for the Future of Public Transport up to 2040 (Toekomstbeeld 2040). Together, the participants drew up the TBOV development agenda entitled ‘Now Boarding for 2040’ (Nu instappen naar 2040). NS's contributions were significant, focusing on network development and hubs. We were also actively involved in preparing the development agenda, which was adopted at the National Public Transport and Railways Platform meeting in November 2020. Over the next few years, this document will serve as a guide for mobility policy of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Tailored regional solutions
NS serves all parts of the Netherlands: both densely populated and sparsely populated areas, the Randstad conurbation and rural regions, and all twelve provinces. We aim to meet the needs of the various regions, and ensure smooth connections within the Netherlands and with other countries. September saw the first ‘regional management dinner’ – an NS initiative – for regional administrators and the NS Executive Board. The participants discussed their shared ambitions and challenges and collaboration between the various regions and NS. The regional authorities are important partners for NS, and the regional management dinner served to further intensify NS's collaboration with the various provinces.
Over the past year, we continued our consultations with regional authorities about the development of the timetable and the railway / public transport infrastructure, and about the role of train services in accessibility and mobility issues. The regional authorities are also greatly interested in hub development (also with a view to the housing construction impulse), international railway connections and a better spread of passengers during peak times. Regional administrators are facing major tasks and complex challenges, such as the nitrogen crisis, and are aware of NS's ability 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
NS shares the dilemmas it is facing with stakeholders in good time, so that they have a better understanding of policy considerations and joint solutions can be found. 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. Examples include adaptations to our product portfolio or in compiling new timetables. 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.
Consultations with the trade unions
NS attaches great importance to good relations with the trade unions. In 2020, we started talks with the unions about the new CLA, the social plan and pensions. We also discussed the implementation of agreements from the CLA for 2017-2020 and the ensuing HR policies, for example as regards safe working during the COVID-19 crisis, absenteeism and sustainable employability.
Case study: spreading passengers to prevent congestion
In order to prevent new peak hours and renewed congestion in public transport, it is crucial that we spread our available capacity as much as possible throughout the day, which will also help to keep public transport affordable. The idea is that lectures and lessons should not all start at the same time. In addition, educational institutions are exploring possibilities to ensure that not all lectures start at the same time.
In the first half of 2020, in collaboration with other public transport companies and with municipal and provincial authorities we made regional agreements with universities, institutions for higher professional education, vocational training centres and secondary schools to ensure their students travel at different times of the day/week. In November 2020, following a successful evaluation the national agreements on spreading passenger volumes were extended until the summer of 2021, in consultation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. In this connection, the transport and education sectors are building on experiences gained in the Arnhem-Nijmegen region, where agreements with Radboud University Nijmegen, HAN University of Applied Sciences and the Nijmegen Regional Training Centre have been in place since September 2018. After these parties had adapted the start times of lessons and lectures, the number of train and bus passengers at peak times decreased by 22% and 10% respectively. We are eager to enter into similar agreements with other employers, including public authorities.
Case study: Creating better and faster connections with the province of Zeeland
The province of Zeeland and NS have been engaged in talks since 2018 on creating better and faster connections with the Randstad conurbation and the province of Noord-Brabant. We were able to partly fill this need in 2019 by adding extra peak-hour trains in the mornings and evenings.
However, what Zeeland was really hoping for was an increase in train frequency and faster trains over a larger part of the day, but an operating deficit prevented us from fulfilling that wish. Even so, in 2020 the national government decided to grant the province of Zeeland a package of compensatory measures after cancelling the planned transfer of a marine base to Vlissingen. In that context, the Wientjes Committee was installed to explore possibilities for mobility improvements and the associated extra impulse for the Zeeland economy, in consultation with parties including ProRail and NS. The committee recommended a phased programme to introduce better and faster connections in the region. The national government has made funds available for that purpose.
NS will implement the first phase when the 2022 timetable comes into effect, raising the frequency to three trains per hour. One of those trains is a fast Intercity service to the Randstad conurbation. The other two are an Intercity stopping train to the Randstad and a Sprinter connection with Roosendaal. The next phase, which involves faster connections via the high-speed line and a second fast Intercity service, will follow in due course. NS is currently engaged in consultations on this subject with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the province of Zeeland and ProRail.
In addition, within the context of the Smart Mobility Plan, NS and the provincial and municipal authorities have come together to create a regional development plan. The focus areas of that plan include station development, mobility hubs and opportunities for commuters, tourism and students.