Safe public transport

Everyone should feel safe when travelling by bus, tram, metro and train. That’s why the government has set out a national strategy to improve safety, together with all the parties within the public transport sector. Transport operators, unions, the police, provinces and metropolitan regions are all closely involved in carrying out this comprehensive strategy. The government also sets safety standards for materials and infrastructure.

Tackling aggressive behaviour

Violence on public transport or at stations can have a lasting impact on victims. The Comprehensive Social Safety Action Programme aims to combat this type of crime.

Social Safety Action Programme

This programme was launched in October 2016 by central government, transport operators, unions, the police and subnational authorities. These parties work together closely to make passengers feel safer and to reduce the number of incidents. Ways of doing this include:

  • keeping less cash in buses (more card payments);
  • using bodycams;
  • having special enforcement officers working for several transport operators;
  • encouraging staff to report incidents.

Measures to combat aggressive behaviour on the rail network

The government believes it is vital that staff and passengers feel safe on public transport. In recent years, central government, Dutch Railways (NS), ProRail and workers’ unions have agreed on measures to combat aggressive behaviour. These include:

  • doubling the number of train staff on high-risk lines (where there is a higher than average incidence of aggressive behaviour) and at high-risk times;
  • increasing the use of CCTV at stations, which will make it easier to identify and prosecute offenders installing screens at a number of stations, so people can see there is a CCTV presence;
  • installing CCTV on trains;
  • installing barriers that can only be opened using an OV chipkaart, since this makes fare-dodging more difficult;
  • ensuring closer cooperation between NS and the police;
  • imposing temporary station bans on people who persistently cause nuisance;
  • introducing on-the-spot fines;
  • putting extra staff or extra conductors on trains after 22.00;
  • improving station security, especially in the period immediately after OV chipkaart barriers have been installed;
  • introducing innovative measures, like an app for issuing fines quickly;
  • making practical arrangements for care and shelter for vulnerable people who cause nuisance. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Ministry of Justice and Security take the lead in this, in cooperation with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG).

Safety on and around the tracks

Central government works with various partners to improve safety on and around the tracks. They have, for instance, adopted the new digital European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and put safety measures in place at level crossings.

Safe level crossings

In their efforts to improve safety at level crossings, central government and ProRail are initially focusing on level crossings with the highest risk.

This approach is set out in:

  • the National Level Crossings Improvement Programme (LVO), which runs from 2014 to 2018;
  • the Passively Protected Level Crossings Programme. Under this programme all publicly accessible level crossings with only passive protection will be removed or actively protected.

Central government has set aside an extra €50 million to improve level crossing safety. This is in addition to the budgets for the two programmes above. The extra funds are intended to make the most dangerous level crossings safer and to improve level crossings on private property.

Improving level crossings

Central government and ProRail have already improved many level crossings, in cooperation with municipalities, provinces, road authorities and other relevant parties. This has made level crossings safer and improved the flow of rail and road traffic. The government is mainly looking at general measures that can be applied at multiple locations, like measures to ensure barriers are closed for a shorter period of time. Road authorities – like provinces and municipalities – can also ask that tailored measures be taken for particular level crossings.

With level crossings, safety and ease of crossing (barrier closure periods) play a vital role. To improve safety, the road may be equipped with an extra central divider. This automatically makes motorists drive more carefully as they approach the level crossing. Measures may also be needed to ensure ease of crossing. The road authority usually covers part of the cost.

When making changes to publicly accessible level crossings, ProRail takes account of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. To ensure the greatest possible transparency in considering the interests of safety and those of recreational users, agreements have been made with ProRail and relevant organisations. These agreements form the basis for reducing the number of passively protected level crossings, in the interests of recreational users.

New ERTMS safety system

Another measure that has been adopted is a new, digital track safety system: the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). One feature of ERTMS is that it ensures trains cannot exceed the speed limit. The system also automatically applies the brakes if required. And because it’s pan-European, trains can cross international borders without the need to switch to a new system. Rollout started in 2016. Read more about ERTMS.

Preventing trains from passing stop signals

To prevent trains from passing stop signals, the following measures have been agreed as part of the stop signal improvement programme:

  • Further rollout of the improved version of the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system. This system automatically stops trains at stop signals. It is particularly effective at low speeds.
  • Implementing the ORBIT warning system. This system warns drivers if they are approaching a stop signal too fast.
  • Tightening the braking rule, requiring drivers to apply the brakes more powerfully to prevent the ATP system from kicking in.

Preventing suicides

Each year, around 200 people take their own lives on the tracks. Each suicide is a personal tragedy, with a devastating impact on the person’s family and friends, the train staff, passengers and other people at the scene. The railway sector and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management want to do all they can to prevent suicides. That’s why ProRail has developed a programme of measures, with a focus on locations where a high number of suicides occur. Fences, anti-trespass grids and motion-sensor lighting have been installed at these spots. Signs bearing the 113 emergency suicide prevention hotline have also been put up. The programme started in 2017 and will run until 2021.

Monitoring safety

The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) monitors the safety of train passengers and staff. Sometimes, additional measures need to be put in place to ensure network safety. If so, the ILT issues a safety warning stating which measures are needed.

The ILT also monitors the transportation of hazardous substances by rail, which must meet certain safety requirements, and enforces the compulsory registration of hazardous substances. If an incident does occur and hazardous substances are released, the safety region in question will inform those living nearby via the NL-Alert system. Through compulsory registration, the emergency services have information about the substances in question within 15 minutes of an incident occurring.