THERE ARE suggestions that moves to push all or part of Netherlands Railways into the private sector have moved down the agenda of the incoming government, which is formed of a coalition of liberal democrats, radical liberals and socialists. Former Transport Minister Annemarie Jorritsma is replaced by Mrs Tineke Netelenbos from the socialist party which in the past has resisted calls to open up the Dutch rail network to competition.

Railway policy is by no means clear cut yet, but NS looks set to keep its monopoly of Intercity services for 10 years, and possibly longer. On the other hand commuter and regional services are to be put out to public tender, and the expectation is that around 30% of routes will be in private hands by 2003. A full-scale parliamentary debate on the issues has yet to take place.

Quite where this leaves embryo operator Lovers Rail is not clear. The company’s Amsterdam - Haarlem services reportedly have as many train crew as passengers, resulting in the formation being cut from three to two cars, and observers suggest that the Utrecht - Hilversum service due to be launched at the end of this month will fare no better.

Meanwhile, we note that CSX has withdrawn from the NDX freight consortium following the announcement of a merger between NS Cargo and DB Cargo to form Rail Cargo Europe. o