RUG: ‘No evening classes for NS’

Roger van Boxtel, CEO of the Dutch rail service NS, would prefer to keep students off the train during rush hour. The RUG will be ‘flexible’, but classes will not be moved to the evenings, says spokesperson Riepko Buikema.

The NS has to contend with trains that are filled to the brim during rush hour, and that was reason enough for NS CEO Roger van Boxtel to ask universities and colleges for their help in late 2015. According to Van Boxtel, if classes are moved to the evenings, the trains will be much less busy during the morning rush hour.

Last week, it came out that the University of Utrecht was determining if classes, especially those for first-year courses, could be moved to the evenings. In doing so, they are complying with the request made by NS. It led to a storm of criticism from students.

Dependent on work

In an open letter to Van Boxtel, the Landelijke Studenten Vakbond (LSVb, National Student Union) pointed out the problems. ‘A lot of students have other activities planned in the evenings, for instance work, sports, student association activities, or other extracurricular activities. Especially since the implementation of the loans system, many students have become dependent on a job in addition to their studies.’ Christiaan Brinkhuis, treasurer for the Groninger Studentenbond (Groningen Student Union), also signed the letter.

Van Boxtel has indicated to the Algemeen Dagblad that he also spoke to the University of Nijmegen. The executive will also visit Leiden this week, and he has planned an appointment in Amsterdam, too. He said that the University of Twente and the RUG were willing to ‘be more flexible’.

Beter Benutten

However, this does not mean that the class schedules in Groningen will be changing. On the contrary, RUG spokesperson Riepko Buikema says, ‘That is not something we’re currently discussing. It’s possible that Van Boxtel is talking about the project ‘Beter Benutten’, in which we’re looking for ways to alleviate rush hour. E-bikes are a possible solution, for example. We’re willing to brainstorm about things like that.’

‘Moving classes to the evenings is asking too much of students and employees alike. You can tell from the way other universities are reacting. We’re already administering exams on a Saturday.’ Buikema puts the situation into perspective for the people of Groningen: ‘Around here, most of the transport is regional, and many students live on their own. If there is a problem, it’s mainly on Monday mornings and Friday evenings.’

Dutch train travel championship

The NS does not know how many students travel from and to Groningen by train every day. Numbers from the Landelijke Monitor Studentenhuisvesting (National Student housing Monitor) indicate that out of all the students in Groningen (approximately 40,000 students at the RUG and Hanze University combined), only approximately 7,700 live outside the city.

A national campaign has been planned for Tuesday. The Facebook event ‘NK treinreizen‘ (Dutch train travelling championship) calls upon students to show the NS ‘how much we students need public transport’. Right now, approximately 25,000 people have clicked ‘Going’, while 26,000 people are interested in the event, but this morning, few students had actually materialised on the trains – in fact, the trains were less crowded than usual.