Dialogue with our stakeholders in the Netherlands
In addition to daily contact with passengers, NS maintains close relations with many different partners and stakeholders. Thanks to this dialogue, which is based on trust, we are able to jointly seize opportunities, identify risks at an early stage and, if possible, mitigate them. These talks also provide valuable expertise and ideas for our organisation and for better, more sustainable services for our passengers. The permanent dialogue provides input for the steps we are considering to keep the Netherlands accessible in a sustainable manner, for everyone.
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 the 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, politics, the media and interest groups). Some stakeholders are on the scene only temporarily in connection with specific subjects, but their input too 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, with a focus last year on, for example, the public tender for the traction energy contract.
We also held regional meetings with local stakeholders. 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 trust.
Collaboration in the transport sector
We work with partners in the transport sector 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.
Vision for the Future of Public Transport up to 2040
If the Netherlands is to remain accessible, ProRail, travellers' organisations and other stakeholders will have to continue their mutual dialogue. As before, in 2021 NS participated in the efforts to flesh out the Vision for the Future of Public Transport up to 2040 (Toekomstbeeld 2040). The Development Agenda (which was presented to the House of Representatives in early 2021) will set the course of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management's mobility policy in the years to come. In 2021 the participants worked to make the Development Agenda more concrete. NS has contributed to the realisation of the Action Agenda for Public Transport Hubs and is also involved in elaborating the various different corridor studies. The further elaboration of the Vision for the Future of Public Transport up to 2040 will also provide information that will serve as input for the government's decisions during its current term of office.
Tailored regional solutions
NS serves the whole of the Netherlands. We aim to meet the needs of the various regions, while ensuring smooth connections within the Netherlands and with other countries. The ‘regional management dinners’ - an initiative launched by NS - have met with a favourable response. During these dinner sessions, regional administrators and the NS Executive Board discussed their shared ambitions and challenges and collaboration between the various regions and NS. The sessions marked the ongoing intensification of collaborative ties between NS and the various Dutch 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 urgent housing construction task), international railway connections and a better spread of passengers during peak times. Regional authorities in the Netherlands are facing major tasks and complex challenges, such as the urbanisation challenge and the associated mobility issues. NS can make a key contribution to help solve these issues. NS is keen to intensify its collaboration with provincial and regional authorities by jointly developing plans and implementing measures.
European Year of Rail
Within the context of the European Year of Rail, NS organised two events at which it entered into dialogue with a range of stakeholders. The events took place upon the arrival of the Connecting Europe Express in Amsterdam on 3 October, and during the special climate train journey to Glasgow on the occasion of the COP26 climate summit in that city.
Dilemmas in the discussions
NS shares the dilemmas it is facing with stakeholders in good time, so that they have a better understanding of our 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. For example, we tell them how we used their input in adapting our product portfolio or creating a new timetable. 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 February 2021, NS and the trade unions agreed on a new CLA which also covers the Social Plan, pension arrangements and an employment guarantee. The term of the new CLA runs from 1 April 2020 to 1 July 2022. The Social Plan and the employment guarantee will remain in effect until 1 January 2025. At several points in time during the rest of the year, NS consulted with the unions on the implementation of agreements under the new CLA and the associated HR policies. For example, these talks covered an early-retirement scheme and a leave savings scheme. NS also talked with the unions about the transformation of NS and the organisational changes arising from that process.
Case: international ticketing road map
NS wants to introduce an easier and more customer-friendly system for buying and travelling with international train tickets. The idea is that buying an international train ticket should become as uncomplicated as booking a plane ticket. At present it is not always possible to buy a ticket well in advance of the travel date, for instance, and there are differences between countries on conditions such as bicycle-on-the-train rules or rates for specific age groups. To change this, NS decided it was necessary to find solutions at the European level. To that end, a new coalition has been formed within the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER). This ‘Passenger CEO Coalition’ is chaired by Marjan Rintel. One of the three main topics is ticketing. Within a special task force, several carriers have developed an ambitious road map. As a guiding principle, it was agreed that the carriers would take the initiative themselves rather than wait for national and European politics come into action. This resulted in a road map that includes all NS's objectives. In September, all CER members (there are around 70, including NMBS, DB, SBB and ÖBB) approved the road map. We are now seeking partnerships, independently and within the framework of the CER, with consumers’ associations, the European Commission an others for the purpose of implementing the road map.
Regional collaboration has also resulted in extension of the Leeuwarden-Meppel Sprinter route to Zwolle. Within the context of the Programme for the Northern Netherlands, ProRail delivered the new infrastructure for this project between Meppel and Zwolle in the summer of 2021. The province of Friesland has temporarily adapted bridge opening times on the route to help realise this project. Passengers from Grou-Jirnsum, Akkrum and Wolvega can now travel to Zwolle directly, and also benefit from better connections with the rest of the Netherlands. At the request of regional parties, NS accelerated the launch of this new Sprinter service and began operations on 6 September rather than wait until the start of the new timetable in December.
Case study: Regional development agendas
NS is keen to intensify its collaboration with provincial and regional authorities by jointly developing plans and implementing measures. This includes drafting regional development agendas for the period until 2030. In 2021, we worked on development agendas that included mutual agreements between public and private parties. The development agendas cover topics such as building houses and creating work environments around our stations, improving all links in our passengers’ door-to-door journeys, making transport more sustainable and the phased further development of our timetable. The agendas now also include agreements on the manner of collaboration, accountability and execution monitoring. The agendas differ from region to region.
In the southern region (covering the provinces of South Holland, Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg), the emphasis is on initiatives such as improving and accelerating national and international connections to Germany and Belgium. One result is the new IC connection from Zeeland to the Randstad conurbation, to be launched in 2022. The development agendas are encouraging parties in the southern region to intensify their collaboration on pre- and post-2030 objectives.