Train travelers to Belgium and Germany will soon have to reserve a seat in advance on many trains from mid-June. The Dutch railway company NS is taking measures against overcrowded trains. It will also limit the number of cheap tickets to Belgium, AD reports.
While NS’s main problem on domestic routes is fewer travelers, the opposite is true on international trains to Belgium and Germany. A record number of people booked an international trip with NS last year, leading to major crowding problems in the summer. It often happened that not all waiting travelers could get on a train or that trains skipped stations because they were already full.
NS is trying to prevent a new crisis this summer by taking measures. For train trips to Germany, travelers will have to reserve a seat during the high season – from June 17 to August 18. The measure applies to all ICE trains. NS will extend trains where possible and do extra maintenance on the equipment on international routes to prevent cancelations and problems.
The Dutch rail company is taking permanent measures on the Belgium route. Travelers who book an Early Bird ticket to Antwer or Brussels can no longer use it on any IC Brussels from June 11. They must reserve a seat on a specific train. NS will also make fewer such tickets available for the time being, and the cheapest rate of 25 euros to Brussels will mostly only apply for off-peak hours. NS hopes that this will ensure a better spread of travelers.
Heike Luiten, director of NS International, called the measures unavoidable. In the longer term, NS is betting on new stock. “For example, ICNG will run on the Intercity Brussels, and new ICE trains will be added to the route towards Frankfurt.” But those trains won’t be available this year.
Interest groups ANWB, Fietserbond, KBO/PCOB, and Rover are very critical about NS making international train travel less attractive. “By limiting Early Bird tickets, NS makes the intercity to Brussels more expensive for travelers on average. We think that is a wrong development,” the groups said in negative advice to NS. They want NS to deploy more and longer trains to Belgium and Germany.
According to the travelers’ organizations, NS brought these problems on itself. “We would like to point out that the growth on these connections has been going on for several years and is in line with your own growth strategy. NS ordered new intercity trains for the route to Belgium too late while you knew that the current rolling stock has limited capacity,” they said, according to the newspaper.