EXPANDING Dutch operator Syntus has won another concession, adding a fourth route to the three regional lines that it works in the Arnhem - Winterswijk - Zutphen area (RG 4.03 p213).

From April 3 the Keolis-backed company will take over the 44 km Arnhem - Tiel route under a contract that will run at least until the end of 2006. Passengers will benefit from an improved service - trains will run hourly all day and half-hourly at peak times. LINT railcars will replace the DM90 series DMUs and Syntus will also end the NS Reizigers economy measure of running buses in place of evening services.

Of the 33 routes identified for concessioning by the Transport Ministry in 1999, no fewer than 20 remain under direct subsidy a year after the programme should have been completed. Amsterdam - Alkmaar and Leiden - Utrecht have reverted to the core network, for which NS has an operating monopoly until 2015. Three other routes are programmed for conversion to light rail.

Tenders are to be called shortly for the Amersfoort - Ede-Wageningen line, despite reservations from local bus operators in Gelderland province, but no timescale has been set for the remainder. The ministry believes substantial savings can be made in operating costs, but NS staff are resisting the introduction of driver-only operation. Faced with an impasse, NS has said it is not prepared to bid under the current conditions. At the end of December NS claimed that it was incurring losses estimated at €40m a year on the 20 remaining routes, despite an annual subsidy of €61m.