Over the past 6 months, in which travel was greatly restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NS rail company has lost €185 million. Without government aid, this would have been far worse.
After March 12, when coronavirus measures were first announced in the Netherlands, passenger numbers dropped by 90%. Later, when regulations were relaxed and train timetables returned to normal, NOS reports that passengers increased to about 40% of pre-coronavirus times. Without government support, the company would have gone into debt by over a billion, RTL Nieuws reports.
The UK’s government in particular opened their wallet for the NS, who operate in the UK under Abellio. NS was compensated 100% of losses due to COVID-19, which amounted to €703 million. The rail company further received €351 million from the Dutch government and €9 million from NOW aid.
But even with generous government donations, the NS remains €52 million in the red. This figure would have been even higher, but €107 million of tax owed to the authorities has been deferred. Since NS expects future profits to reduce dramatically, the company will also be taxed less in future.
Keeping NS afloat
The Dutch railway company is doing everything possible to keep train tickets affordable. To encourage more passengers, NS is introducing new subscriptions for commuters who work from home more often due to COVID-19.
NS is also in conversation with education and large business customers to better spread travelers over the working day. “Staggered travel is essential for an increase in the number of travelers,” says president-director Roger van Boxtel.
At the end of July, NS announced that reorganization was inevitable, and 2,300 jobs are expected to disappear. Van Boxtel expects passenger numbers to only return to 2019 levels in 2024. “The Dutch public transport sector has to adapt, but will not survive without further support.”
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