Disputes in the Netherlands over charging for the Amsterdam – Breda high-speed line

The Dutch government is being criticised for imposing track access charges on rail companies operating on the Amsterdam – Breda high-speed line.

The controversial policy, which originated in a 2001 Dutch Railways (NS) tender, is due to come into full effect by the end of 2024. In 2011, an agreement was reached to introduce the HSL toll, which has increased annually and will now reach around EUR 170 million in 2024.

Critics have raised three issues:

  • The HSL charge contravenes Directive 2012/34/EU, which lays down rules on rail infrastructure charges. The high charge could make high-speed rail services unprofitable.
  • While NS will be compensated for the HSL charge with taxpayers’ money, other operators will have to bear the costs, creating unfair conditions of competition.
  • Maintaining the arrangements from the Fyra incident and beyond creates barriers for both existing high-speed and high-speed players and prevents competition.

Erich Forster, President of AllRail, called on the government to reconsider this policy: “The Dutch government should abolish the HSL levy to ensure non-discriminatory access to the high-speed line. In line with EU guidelines,” he stressed.

With the end of 2024 fast approaching, the rail sector is watching closely in the hope that a solution will be found that promotes competition and sustainable rail operations throughout the Netherlands.

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