The provinces, the national government and public transport companies must do their best to keep unprofitable bus lines in the air. This is what 26 traffic organizations and transport companies state in a five-point plan that they are presenting today with a view to upcoming elections.
High-quality public transport is one of the important themes in these Provincial Council elections. Partly due to falling passenger numbers as a result of the corona pandemic, regional (bus) transport has been cut in many provinces. In recent years, 500 bus stops have disappeared throughout the Netherlands, Pointer calculated at the end of February.
“It is very important that public transport is not stripped down further and that the basic level remains in order,” says ANWB board chairman Marga de Jager on behalf of the Mobility Alliance: the interest group of 26 organizations, including BOVAG, Fietsersbond, Transport en Logistiek Nederland, NS, Arriva and the Cyclists Union.
Knife in the timetable
She points to the problems in public transport, where staff are currently campaigning for higher wages and a lower workload. “Many transport companies are struggling financially and are struggling with staff shortages. The result is that the knife is put in the timetable.”
The least profitable lines are almost always the first to be scrapped, sees the Mobility Alliance. “Although an understandable reflex, ruthless cutting in public transport is highly undesirable. If such lines disappear, they usually do not return. Certainly in regions outside the Randstad, it will lead to a considerable reduction in supply. For residents of villages or centers where the bus no longer runs, there is a threat of transport poverty.”
The provinces play a key role in building one million homes. Good accessibility is essential
Creative solutions are needed to prevent further impoverishment, says De Jager. “Provinces can, for example, shift transport budgets and recalibrate existing concessions. That way, lines can still be preserved.” Customized solutions, such as driving smaller vehicles, can also offer a solution. This also applies to a temporary or permanent government contribution to cope with the greatest financial need. “There are good discussions about this between the government, regions and transporters.”
The Mobility Alliance also advises provinces to better map out the transport requirements in the regions. “Which transport do people need most and at what times?” Public transport must be seen in the context of all other transport: from (electric) bicycle, target group transport, taxi and car. “In this way you make it increasingly attractive to combine means of transport. Then you can take your electric bike to the nearest bus stop. If sufficient and safe parking facilities and comfortable cycle routes are provided, this can be given an extra impulse.”
Of course, public transport is only one of the five points that the transport lobby wants to draw attention to. For example, the provinces and the cabinet must continue to invest in accessibility, from the road network to cycling infrastructure and rail. “The provinces play a key role in building a million homes. Good accessibility is essential.”
Invest in road safety
The Mobility Alliance further urges the provinces to continue investing in road safety. “Especially on provincial N-roads, the number of road casualties is high.” De Jager points out that road safety should not be seen as a cost item. “The social damage of all road deaths and injuries is 27 billion euros annually. Investing in safer traffic has positive effects on congestion, emissions and health.”
Remarkably enough, the Mobility Alliance does not attach any amount to the package of wishes. Prior to the 2021 parliamentary elections, an additional 3 billion euros per year was demanded for mobility. De Jager speaks of a conscious choice. “If you mention an amount, the discussion is only about the amount of the amounts. We want to prevent that, especially now that twelve provincial budgets are involved.”
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