Government given free hand to reverse policies on public transport

23 May 2008

Government given free hand to reverse policies on public transport

After several years of uncertainty Secretary of State for Transport Tineke Huizinga today admitted that EU law does not oblige member state governments to put public transport services out to competitive tender. SP Member of Parliament and transport spokesman Emile Roemer, responding to Huizinga's announcement, said: “Putting bus transport out to tender is a Dutch idea, and so one which we can reverse - starting with the biggest cities, which maintain their own transport services, and moving on to the rest of the Netherlands, where we can put things back to some sort of order."

Emile RoemerAn enquiry instigated by the Dutch national parliament looked recently into the legal consequences should the country's three biggest cities - Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague – simply hand public transport services to their own municipally-owned companies. In reaction to this enquiry, the Secretary of State now admits that legal risks would be close to non-existent. The implication is that the privatisation of transport companies must as soon as feasible be reversed. The responsible authority should once again take real control of these service providers.

Roemer expressed his satisfaction with this outcome. "Since SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer, in his official European Parliament report in 2001, won the support of a majority of colleagues for a halt to the policy of forcing public transport on to the market, we have been putting pressure on the government in the Netherlands to stop this nonsense. At last they have recognised that public tenders are absolutely not obligatory. The three big cities can regulate their own transport and their transport providers can be brought back under public control."

In the SP's view, this marks the beginning of a turning of the tide against the trend for deregulation. “Recently the SP's research bureau provided convincing evidence that deregulation and tendering have led to a great deal of uncertainty and to unreliable bus services. They never, furthermore, bring genuine competition, because there are only three large commercial bus companies operating in the Netherlands and these often collaborate, as they did for example in abandoning services in the Wadden Islands when these failed to attract sufficient passengers. It is now quite clear that there is once again a future for publicly-owned companies willing to guarantee good public transport services throughout the Netherlands."

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