NS continues to struggle with loss and delayed trains: ‘Tough and annoying year’

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A traveler at the station in Delft
NOS News

The NS suffered a loss of more than 300 million euros last year. At the same time, it failed to run more trains on time, according to the annual report.

The loss figures are less bad than in previous years during the corona crisis (in 2021 the loss amounted to 952 million euros), but “still far insufficient for a financially healthy NS”, the company states in its annual report.

The NS outlines 2022 as “a tough and annoying year, with September as the low point”. In that month there were considerably fewer trains due to a shortage of personnel. “We have failed the traveler in this,” said CEO Wouter Koolmees when presenting the figures. “People couldn’t rely on us anymore. I call that a defeat. We disappointed our travelers last year.”

High-speed line

In 2022, the NS was less successful in getting trains to run on time. In 2022, 91.6 percent of travelers arrived on time, compared to 94.4 percent a year earlier.

Passengers were particularly affected by delays on the high-speed line. Only 82 percent arrived on time on that route. According to the NS, this is largely due to a speed limit that was introduced in October at a viaduct near Leiden, where there are problems with the construction. As a result, there are also delays on that line this year.

Fewer travelers

The annual report shows that NS transported fewer passengers last year than in the years before the corona pandemic. In March, when the last corona measures such as the face mask disappeared, passenger growth started again. In the autumn, that growth stopped again. At the moment, the company transported 20 percent fewer travelers than before the pandemic.

What is striking is that the travel pattern has changed considerably. In the weekends it has become busier in the train, while it is busy on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week. It has become quieter on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to the NS because commuters work from home more often on those days.

Busy in the train

Due to the failure of trains and equipment, it was sometimes busier on the train last year. Over the whole of 2022, 96.6 percent had a seat during rush hour, compared to 99.6 percent the year before.

In December, a new timetable was introduced to better reflect the changing travel behaviour. Things have improved somewhat since then, according to the transport company: in January this year, an average of 55 trains were overcrowded, compared to 129 in January 2020 (the last January without corona measures). During rush hour, 96.8 percent had a seat that month, compared to 95.3 percent two years ago.

Staff recruited

Due to the staff shortage, the NS had to run fewer trains on some routes. The shortage is due to the tight labor market, but also to increased absenteeism, the company reports. In order to get the workforce back up to standard, a lot of recruitment was done: 5162 candidates were found for the 7048 vacancies.

NS expects that high inflation and structurally lower passenger numbers will “remain challenging” in the coming years. The carrier must continue to borrow in the coming years to pay for all business activities and investments, while the debt has already risen to 1.8 billion euros.

It is not expected that NS’s activities on the main rail network will yield any profit until 2024. In the coming period, talks will be held with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management about the conditions for the new concession that will take effect in 2025.

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