NS Groep NV has raised its net operating profit by just over 20% to 197m guilders, largely by improved performance from the passenger business NS Reizigers. Revenue grew by 9%, but operating costs fell, despite a 5% increase in the number of trains running from May 1998, and a fares increase of just 2·5%.

This strong performance is particularly notable when contrasted with that of private operator Lovers Rail. While no figures have been published for the traffic on its seasonal IJmuiden service, the CGEA-owned firm is reported to have abandoned plans to run the service this summer, and is surrendering paths on the Utrecht - Hilversum and Den Haag - Leiden routes. It may also withdraw from the Amsterdam - Haarlem service which competes with NS in favour of bidding for regional franchises around Maastricht and Groningen which are due to go to tender shortly.

NS has its own policy to improve local services by establishing subsidiaries running both bus and train services. NS and bus company Oostnet set up Syntus as an integrated operator last year, and on February 24 an accord was signed to bring SNCF International into the partnership. Syntus will take over bus and rail services in the Winterswijk - Doetinchem - Zutphen region on May 30, when NoordNed is to do the same in the north.

Meanwhile, progress is being made in putting together the team of companies who will construct the HSL-Zuid high speed line from Amsterdam to the Belgian border. Firms were asked to register by April 1, with four to be selected to submit final tenders by early May.

  • Traffic on the Thalys high speed service linking Amsterdam, K