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It is very important for travelers that they can use a reliable travel product. As ProRail and NS have previously reported, rail performance was under pressure in the second half of 2023.

Minister Vivianne Heijnen of Infrastructure and Water Management has in a letter to the House of Representatives presented the annual accounts of ProRail and NS for 2023, in which they also announced the sanctions for failure to achieve various performance indicators.

The performance of ProRail and NS in 2023 was not as expected, especially in the second half of the year. For Passenger Punctuality 5 minutes on the Main Rail Network (HRN), they scored 89,7%, slightly above the bottom value of 88,9%, but lower than the 91,6% in 2022. For Passenger Punctuality 15 minutes on the HRN, the score was 97,0%, again above the bottom value of 96,7%, but lower than the 97,3% in 2022. However, punctuality on the High Speed ​​Line (HSL) was a problem, with a score of only 73,6% compared to bottom value of 82,1%.

ProRail and NS give three main reasons for the reduced performance: temporary speed restrictions, shortages of available train equipment and technical personnel, and disruption during work. The minister imposes a fine of €2,75 million on ProRail for not achieving the minimum value for HSL performance and customer assessment of freight transporters. NS is fined €500.000 for poor performance on the HSL.

In 2023, there were 146 disruptions that caused significant disruption to travelers, a decrease compared to the 177 disruptions in 2022. The largest cause of disruptions were strikes and technical failures to the infrastructure. Badger setts under the track also caused delays and halts to train traffic. ProRail works with various authorities on measures to reduce these risks, such as monitoring badger setts and constructing artificial castles.

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Last year, the NS was fined 1,5 million euros for scaling down the timetable in 2022.

ProRail has taken steps to phase out chemical weed control and is investigating alternatives such as cryogenic treatments and green chemistry. Although progress has been made, complete phase-out by 2025 has proven unfeasible. ProRail is now aiming for a complete phase-out by 2028. ProRail is also working on replacing quartz-containing ballast with quartz-free ballast, although the availability of this is currently limited.

NS performed well in the first half of 2023, but they came under pressure in the second half. A new travel behavior of commuters who work more from home influences traveler numbers. NS is therefore introducing the “NS Voordeel” to encourage traveling during quiet moments. Although NS achieved most performance indicators, they scored lower than in 2022 on four of the eight indicators.

For the Quality of Connections, NS achieved 93,8% just short of the bottom value of 94%. This lower score is attributed to factors outside the control of NS, such as delays of international trains and lengthy work. The minister has decided not to impose a sanction for this.

Passengers' sense of safety on the train will have improved in 2023, but incidents against NS staff have increased by 8%. The minister emphasizes the importance of safety for both travelers and staff and supports NS's measures to improve social safety, such as better cooperation with the police and other authorities.

The influx of the new Intercity New Generation (ICNG) was different than expected. Due to delayed delivery, the priority is for full intake on the HSL in 2024. The minister has asked NS to prepare for possible setbacks in the intake and emphasizes that NS must meet the requirements from the 2025 timetable.

2023 was a challenging year for ProRail and NS. Although some performances were influenced by external factors, the minister expects better services and encourages ProRail and NS to improve their performance in 2024. The fines and the emphasis on improvement programs underline the urgent need for improvement in the Dutch railway network.

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