We are a small country. The advantage, though, is that ‘abroad’ is very close. We don’t have to fly to other countries; we just catch a train – preferably a high-speed one – to cities like Brussels, Paris and beyond. If it can be done by the French, Spanish and Japanese, why not us?
In 1994 – yes, nearly 20 years ago! – we started building new tracks. In 2004 we ordered the trains, from an Italian company not known for its efficiency. Then, last year, our first high-speed train, called ‘Fyra’, was officially launched between Amsterdam and Brussels.
Yes, you read that correctly – Amsterdam and Brussels, instead of The Hague and Brussels, even though The Hague is the Dutch city that needs the Brussels connection the most, since it’s our seat of parliament, and Brussels is HQ of the EU, so a lot of government employees travel between these two cities every week.
After a few months, though, Fyra had to be removed from service because there were too many technical problems, almost a thousand in fact. These included the brakes and other crucial mechanical issues that could have cost lives. Then this week Dutch Railways (NS) decided to abandon the project.
Dutch MPs have now ordered a parliamentary inquiry into the Fyra disaster, to try to get to the bottom of the missed deadlines, the millions of euros in extra costs and the disinformation about its progress. There is one small problem, though – almost all the Dutch political parties have been in power at one time or other during the project, so it will be difficult to pin the blame.