NETHERLANDS: Regional rail and bus services in the province of Limburg are to be operated by NS subsidiary Abellio, the regional authority announced on February 10. Valued at €55m a year, the integrated public transport contract will start on December 11 2016 and run for 15 years.

As well as the Maastricht Randwyck – Heerlen – Kerkrade and Nijmegen – Venlo – Roermond routes currently operated by Veolia, the contract will also cover stopping services on the routes from Roermond to Sittard, Heerlen and Maastricht Randwyck which are now run by NS Reizigers. This will make Limburg the first Dutch province where all regional rail and bus services are provided by the same contractor. However, inter-city trains to Heerlen, Venlo, Eindhoven and Maastricht will still be run by the national train operator.

Three companies had submitted bids for the Limburg package; as well as Abellio these were DB subsidiary Arriva, which operates trains elsewhere in the Netherlands, and Linea, a new company founded by incumbent Veolia.

While Abellio is primarily seen as the NS business unit for international contract operations in the UK and Germany, it is also the parent company Qbuzz, which runs bus services in Utrecht, Groningen, Drenthe and part of Friesland.

In December 2014 the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment agreed to provide €30m towards the projected €121m cost of electrifying the Maaslijn between Nijmegen and Roermond, as part of a programme to make regional rail services more sustainable. However, Abellio is expected to start with an interim diesel service as the electrification is unlikely to be completed in time.