We expect to see further financial challenges in the years ahead. This is due to high inflation rates, the long-term drop in passenger numbers and termination of the public transport availability payment in 2022. The availability payment will be replaced by a much smaller ‘transition safety net’ with an expected budget of €45 million for NS. In the coming years, NS will have to continue borrowing funds to cover all the costs of its operating activities and investments, while the company's debt has already risen in recent years. We will continue our efforts to reduce our costs and improve our results. In 2020, NS launched a cost-savings programme that should reduce our costs by €1.4 billion over the period through 2024: this involves a structural decrease of our operating costs and postponement or cancellation of capital expenditure projects. NS has so far realised approximately half of all the initiatives in the programme that concern our operating costs.
Healthy balance sheet risks and return from the main rail network franchise
Based on the current conditions governing the franchise, NS expects to continue making losses on the main rail network up to and including 2024. In the period ahead, we will consult with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management about the conditions to be attached to the new franchise, which will take effect in 2025.