It may well be the busiest bus they have seen driving in the villages between Doetinchem, Rheden and Arnhem. On Saturday, the SP department of Gelderland will travel with an antique bus through the region, where mostly (almost) empty buses passed by during the corona crisis.
The SP protests on Saturday against the cancellation of bus lines in the region. In Arnhem/Nijmegen, for example, lines in Giesbeek and Eerbeek will disappear next year, night buses in Arnhem and Nijmegen and line 7 to the Africa Museum in Berg en Dal. The leaner summer schedule will be permanent.
“We should not curtail public transport, but strengthen it,” says Maurits Gemmink, Gelders States member for the SP and organizer of the bus campaign. “Transport is important. People who are less mobile can participate in society and it is also essential for sustainability. Cutting bus lines now is incredibly stupid. You just drive people back into the car.”
Not only in Gelderland, but throughout the Netherlands there is a threat of impoverishment of public transport. This is due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions. At its lowest point, bus, train, tram and metro carried no more than 20 percent of the number of passengers before the pandemic.
This has hit many transport companies hard financially. According to the SP, the providers in Gelderland (Arriva, Keolis, Breng/Connexxion) have suffered a loss of around 30 million since March 2020. The province subsidizes the carriers with approximately 150 million per year. That normally accounts for half the cost; the rest is earned through ticket sales.
All public transport companies in the Netherlands – NS, regional and urban transport – receive support from the national government as compensation. In 2020 that was 1.5 billion euros, for this year it is a comparable amount. This availability fee for public transport (BV-OV) has recently been extended until September next year. 140 million euros is available for the first eight months of 2022. Significantly less than in 2020 and 2021, because travelers are expected to return.
In June, the then outgoing State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure, D66) wrote to the House of Representatives about extending the compensation: “In recent months, research has been carried out into what would happen to urban and regional transport if the scheme were not extended. In many places this would lead to a significant impoverishment of supply and services. This can be prevented by providing clarity now.”
Also read: What will remain of public transport after corona time?
However, depletion remains the order of the day. Despite the support, transport companies throughout the Netherlands have reported in recent weeks that they will cut the timetables for 2022. In the Breda region, this is “inevitable”, the municipality said. In Groningen and Drenthe, 8 percent fewer buses will be running next year than before the pandemic. On the Veluwe, carrier Keolis is shrinking by the same percentage.
Travelers association Rover is also concerned about public transport. Freek Bos of Rover says: “Cutting does not fit with the growth of public transport that is necessary. For the accessibility of new homes, for example, the climate objectives.”
In the Arnhem/Nijmegen region, Herman de Gooijer van Breng (Connexxion’s brand name for regional public transport) sees what is visible in many places in the Netherlands. “Education is reopening. The buses to university, college and MBO institutions are just as full as before the corona crisis. But on other lines, the demand is even less. Then why should we run buses there?” Bring now transports 65 percent of the number of travelers in 2019.
The big question for us, says De Gooijer, is whether the commuter will return. “If companies and organizations start to focus more on hybrid working – sometimes to the office, sometimes at home – this will have consequences for our services.” Of course, he acknowledges, if Breng runs buses, it stimulates demand, but if there is no demand, it makes no sense to send buses on the road. “And this is about public money.” The demand for public transport is also changing, says De Gooijer. “In Arnhem, the average travel distance for us is 4 kilometres. You can of course also do this with an electric bicycle. The e-bike is becoming a competitor.”
Public transport spokesperson Petra Borsboom of the Provincial Executive of Gelderland also sees that passenger demand is changing. “That long bus that passes villages once every half hour is no longer what many people want. They want flexibility. The SP then says: the bus ensures that this 80-year-old woman can go to the hospital. But he doesn’t want to take the bus at all. With transfer. She wants direct.”
The province wants more flexibility in public transport, says Borsboom. Buses on demand, for example, or fast and luxurious buses for commuters. Anyone who wants to go back to the transport of the past, says Borsboom, remains stuck in a nostalgic and priceless desire.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of September 17, 2021
The student is on the bus again, is the commuter following?
Source link The student is on the bus again, is the commuter following?