NS pulls out of United Kingdom after 20 years; Sells off Abellio train & bus lines

The Dutch national railway NS has sold off its British subsidiary, Abellio, to the British management. The rail operator announced this in an internal communication that was obtained by ANP. The move marks the end of the Dutch railway’s presence in the United Kingdom, where the company had been active since 2003.

For several decades, NS was a major player in other European countries, but decided a few years ago to focus more fully on the Netherlands again. The foreign investments generated significant revenue, but also additional fears. Abellio suffered major losses in Germany, and the rail operator came under fire in Scotland for failing to meet certain performance targets.

Even among national politicians in The Hague, foreign investments by organizations such as the NS and Schiphol Airport are viewed differently these days. Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag said over the summer that if it were up to her, those companies would only make investments abroad that also contribute to the public interest of those companies in the Netherlands.

The sale will yield at least 15 million euros for the NS, but that figure can rise to 25 million euros depending on how Abellio performs in the near future. There are also various claim procedures in the United Kingdom which means it is not yet possible to calculate precisely what the Dutch railway’s presence on the British market means for the NS financially. On balance, it is now estimated that the positive result is probably 100 million to 180 million euros.

In fact, the NS had wanted to say goodbye to the British market earlier, but ongoing political debates about the rail system in the United Kingdom slowed the process down. According to the NS, the British rail sector has now entered calmer waters. In August, the NS agreed that Abellio UK would be taken over by the British management. It then took several months to complete the deal. The local transport authorities have now approved the sale.

Abellio UK has over 10,000 employees and provides the trains in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Greater Anglia regions, and also in the area around Liverpool. The company still operates several bus lines in London. The concession in Scotland is no longer included, because it was not previously extended.

According to NS, the sale of Abellio UK is separate from the activities of Abellio Germany. The company wants to maintain its presence with Abellio east of the Netherlands. According to the NS, the activities there are “of strategic importance” because they contribute to Dutch passengers’ international rail journeys that take them into Germany.

Reporting by ANP

ImageAn Abellio East Midlands Railway train in Sheffield. 8 September 2022 An Abellio East Midlands Railway train in Sheffield. 8 September 2022 – Credit: Geof Sheppard / Wikimedia Commons – License: CC-BY-SA

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