NETHERLANDS Railways confirmed on December 16 that it intends to push ahead with controversial plans to eliminate staffed booking offices at most stations. The proposals had been on hold for three months pending consultation with consumers’ organisations.

NS Reizigers will move to a three-level strategy by 2003. However, it has agreed not to close any booking offices before July 2000, and to carry out an interim evaluation of the changes during 2001.

Full facilities will be retained at the 47 principal stations which account for 70% of business; these will have ticket and information offices, more automatic vending machines and roving staff to assist passengers. The 60 medium stations accounting for 25% of traffic will have ’service in-shop’, with tickets available from an on-station convenience store.

The remaining stations, which together generate barely 5% of passenger revenue, are classified as ’basic service’. NS will appoint a ticket agency in a nearby shop, with more complex bookings referred to adjacent stations. About half of the 100 stations are already unstaffed, but ticket offices at the others are slated for closure. All basic stations will be equipped with CCTV for passenger security and to prevent vandalism.

CAPTION: On December 14 Amtrak unveiled at Las Vegas the fifth of its new Talgo trainsets, which will be used on the Los Angeles - Las Vegas service expected to start in September. Amtrak-funded track and signalling improvements on the UP route will enable a 5 h 30 min time for the 547 km trip, with one intermediate stop at the LA suburb of Montclair. After the ceremony, the train was tested in revenue service on the San Diego - Santa Barbara route