January 6, 2014

Belgian train tickets cheaper for Dutch destinations

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 11:04 am

A one way train ticket from Roosendaal, a border station between the Netherlands and Belgium, to Brussels costs 6,50 euro less when buying it from Belgian railways (NMBS) than Dutch railways. A one way ticket from border station Maastricht to Brussels is even 8 euro cheaper, according to Metro.

The NMBS offers a ‘Go Pas’ pass, with which people can travel from either Roosendaal or Maastricht to Brussels for 14,60 euro there and back on the same day. With NS Hispeed (Dutch railways’ international travel company), a day trip from Roosendaal to Brussels costs 26 euro.

The Belgians consider Roosendaal and Maastricht inland stations keeping the price down, while Dutch railways recently hiked its prices to Belgian destinations.

Since saving money is all the rage, there’s always The trend of sharing unstamped train tickets through Facebook.

(Link: www.metronieuws.nl)

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January 1, 2014

Dutch railways leans on net neutrality law to block sites

Filed under: IT,Online by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

The Dutch Authority for Consumers & Markets has approved Dutch railways’ move to block YouTube and Spotify which use a lot of bandwidth in order to provide better quality Wi-Fi in some of their trains. Even though the Wi-Fi is free, the net neutrality law force ISPs and telecom operators to ensure access to all types of content, services or applications available on the network.

Much in the same way as Christian Internet access providers let clients filter the Internet to respect religious beliefs, the Dutch railways has blocked certain ‘data-heavy sites’ to avoid Wi-Fi congestion in trains. As long as the blocking is not selective, it is allowed, although one could easily argue that it is selective, as blocking YouTube and Spotify but leaving out Daily Motion and Deezer is indeed making a selection.

A lot of people in the Netherlands already use Internet mobile on their phones and computers and don’t really need the free service, the service is quite slow and probably won’t improve dramatically, and when something is free, many people don’t expect much of it anyways. However, watchdogs are worried about telecoms like T-Mobile who run the Wi-Fi in trains trying getting around the law to suit its purposes. After all, it’s companies like them who tried to up their prices when they started losing major ground to Skype and WhatsApp, and led to pushing through net neutrality laws in the first place.

The Netherlands made international headlines after being the second country in the world and the first European country to embrace net neutrality. The idea of companies chipping away at it will surely be watched very closely.

(Links: www.nieuws.nl, webwereld.nl, www.acm.nl)

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November 8, 2013

The trend of sharing unstamped train tickets through Facebook

Filed under: General,Online by Orangemaster @ 11:09 am

Sharing unstamped train tickets started with a Facebook page for Utrecht Central Station, the country’s biggest train station, with 9,400 likes and counting, and is spreading like wildfire to the rest of the country. Although many people now use a public transport chip card for train travel, paper tickets are still available until next year, and this trick works with paper tickets. It all started with a girl who took a picture of her train ticket and put it on Facebook to share it. Then three guys picked up the idea and started Facebook pages to do the same, with rumours of developing an app.

I plan to go from Amsterdam to Utrecht and back the same day. I buy a paper train ticket, get in the train, travel, and go back to Amsterdam in time for dinner. The train staff didn’t stamp my train ticket, so it can be used again for the same trip. The goal of the Facebook page is to share these tickets by leaving them somewhere at a train station, making someone’s else day, with a small treasure hunt as a bonus.

Technically a train ticket cannot be used twice and it is illegal to do so, but if nobody checks, nothing can be proven, and it’s been like that for ages. So why is it trendy now? Social media makes it easier to share these tickets and the prices keep going up, but not the service, so people are getting creative. As well, finding out that Dutch railways (NS) has been evading taxes to the tune of 250 million euro by buying trains through Ireland will make you stop your moral questioning since the NS is not burdened by any such feelings.

Then again, these Facebook pages are encouraging people to commit fraud, which won’t get the NS to check train tickets more often as they simply do not have the staff for it. The sharing is also not very convenient for one way tickets.

Either way, the message is clear: train tickets are too expensive and people are not happy with the NS.

(Links: www.duic.nl, www.telegraaf.nl, Photo of train by Flickr user UggBoy hearts UggGirl, some rights reserved)

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February 17, 2013

Infrared sensors detect train composition for travel app

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:04 pm

Dutch Rail has started an experiment that lets its customers see which train compartments are relatively empty and therefore likely to have seats available.

To this end, the company has equipped 11 trains on the Zwolle-Amersfoort line with 280 infrared sensors. The data of these sensors is sent to an app that shows where there is room in the train (see illustration). Two minutes after the train has left a station, the app will be updated.

The app called Reisplanner Xtra also provides information about whether the train has wifi, where the quiet compartments are, where the first and second compartments are, and so on. It is unclear how long this test will run.

(Link and image: Dutch Rail. Via Springwise)

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January 19, 2013

Belgium bans Dutch Rail’s top train

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 9:48 pm

A Belgian rail safety body has suspended the Dutch high-speed train Fyra on its network, Dutchnews reports.

According to De Gelderlander, pieces of the train had been found on the track, which may have come loose because of chunks of ice on the track. The suspension won’t be lifted until Monday evening, according to Belgian paper Knack.

Dutch Rail introduced nine new Fyra trains on 9 December last year and cancelled its regular, cheaper Amsterdam-Brussels service on the same date. A Fyra ticket was twice as expensive as a ticket for the regular train.

State-owned Dutch Rail has a de facto monopoly on train services in the profitable areas of the Netherlands. Members of European Parliament get a 50% discount when they travel by Fyra, Dutchnews reported last year.

The new Fyra trains (model V250) are made by Italian company AnsaldoBreda, which wrote on 19 December: “The technical problems which occurred in the early days, – after careful technical analysis carried out by AB staff as well as by experts of the company that manage the network – were not imputable to the train, but to issues related to the infrastructure system.” Dutch Rail is putting the blame for the current problems squarely on AnsaldoBreda, according to treinreiziger.nl. Dutch Rail CEO Bert Meerstadt told the site: “The early problems combined with the safety risk that ice blocks are causing show that the V250 does not live up to what we agreed with its manufacturer.”

See also: Dutch Rail abused privacy ‘anonymous’ transport card users, and more

(Photo by Arnold de Vries, some rights reserved)

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April 13, 2012

Ancient cannabis found during railway construction

Filed under: General,History by Orangemaster @ 3:29 pm

With an emphasis on most probably, archaeologists have found bits of what looks like Cannabis sativa in a grave from the stone age some 4200 years ago near Hattemerbroek where digging is going on to build the Hanseatic railway line. It would also be the first time that cannabis has been found in a grave in the Netherlands. They also found other medicinal plants, jewels, tools and drinking cups.

This part of the country has apparently never been really dug up, and so who knows what they’ll find next, as the railway will only be ready in December 2012. The Hanseatic line (Hanzelijn in Dutch) will connect the Randstad conurbation with the Northwest part of the country, namely the cities of Leeuwarden and Groningen (see map).

Currently, the only way to get up there by train is through Amersfoort (cut off on the map, the white square below Zwolle on the blue line more to the right) and then Zwolle, but it involves switching trains at Zwolle because they are no direct trains (intercity trains) like in the rest of the country. It takes a good three hours to get there and people from Leeuwarden and Groningen are a bit fed up of having to switch trains when then commute.

The good news is, wait, it’s bad news. The Hanseatic line will connect Lelystad to Zwolle avoiding Amersfoort , but it will unfortunately take the same amount of time for commuters. Train infrastructure company ProRail has said that commuters will still have to switch at Zwolle without explaining why that is, and so there’s a petition doing the rounds against it. I can imagine they feel like second-class citizens, knowing that if you live in Maastricht or Heerlen you can usually go to Amsterdam Central Station in one go.

(Links: www.waarmaarraar.nl, www.prorailpersberichten.nl, Photos Photo by Eric Caballero, some rights reserved, Photo of Intercitynet NL 2013 by Classical geographer, some rights reserved)

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March 10, 2012

Wifi roll-out on Dutch Rail trains progressing as scheduled

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 4:06 pm

Each month ten Dutch Rail trains are equipped with free wifi, so that all 365 trains should have wifi by the end of 2013, Webwereld reports. This is according to schedule.

Currently wifi is free. Dutch Rail still has to decide if it will start charging money for usage after 2012. The national government gave Dutch Rail a 15 million euro subsidy for putting wifi on its trains.

In 2011 the number of trains featuring free wifi doubled, but usage quadrupled. Data rate and session length have stayed the same, 9MB and 40 minutes respectively.

Webwereld, a computer news site, asked some of its users about their experiences with the service. The consensus seems to be that it is as good as one can expect from ‘free’, but not better. Complaints centre on bad connections and slow speeds. One odd complaint is that the operator, T-Mobile, seems to be using German IP numbers. Users get to see the German Google when they want to search, and Facebook warns them that somebody is trying to log into their account from Germany.

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October 7, 2011

Dutch trains to hand out bags to pee in

Filed under: General,Health by Orangemaster @ 6:41 pm

The new current Sprinters, trains for short distances, don’t have any toilets, and that’s a problem for many people. Knowing that these trains jam up in the winter (half of them froze up last year during a storm), going to the bathroom is a real issue.

So what have the Dutch railways come up with? Weeing bags, or ‘plaszakken’ (‘pee bags’), which is a trending topic in the Dutch Twittersphere, if not, it’s just plain trendy. The pee bags are the kind you would buy at an outdoors equipment shop. Oh, and you have to ask the train conductor for one, so you have to find him or her first.

The idea is to take a pee bag and wee in the empty train conductor’s office. They could put a bathroom in there, but no.

Train passenger organisation Rover calls the pee bag “better than nothing” and “an emergency solution.” I say it’s crisis time, and I hope nobody ever needs to do a Number 2 in the train.

UPDATE: When any new Sprinters will be in use, they will have to have toilets. Stay tuned.

(Link: nos.nl)

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October 17, 2010

Dual purpose bin for newspapers and other waste

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:58 pm

Free newspapers have been a successful part of the Dutch landscape for a while now, and sometimes a bit too much so. The railway stations and trains especially are littered with discarded copies. Sometimes that can be useful (if you do not have the time to grab a copy from an official dispenser), at other times finding a place to sit among a sea of paper can be a nuisance.

I spotted this dual purpose disposal bin at Bijlmer station last week. One slot says ‘afval’ (garbage), the other says ‘kranten’ (newspapers).

According to Uli Schnier of Stichting Nederland Schoon (the Netherlands Clean Foundation), two-thirds of all the waste at railway stations consists of paper, OVnieuws.info reported in March 2009. The large majority of that paper stems from copies of the free newspapers. Each copy is read by three different people on average.

Rail authority Prorail has experimented with blue waste paper bins in the past year (see the photos at the OVnieuws article), but you will forgive me if I had never noticed them before, because they look just like the bins for regular garbage. These new ‘exclamation marks’, also by Prorail, certainly make their point better.

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April 30, 2010

Trains in Amsterdam stopped because of people walking on the tracks

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:03 pm

Rail traffic around Amsterdam was halted this afternoon because party-goers were walking on the tracks, presumably because authorities decided to vacate Amsterdam Sloterdijk station for unclear reasons. Today is the Netherlands’ national holiday, Queen’s Day.

More Queen’s Day reporting tomorrow.

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