Dutch private train company Arriva launched the first night train from Groningen to Schiphol airport two weeks ago. This development will bring the northern region closer to rest of the country. The new route, however, has caused even more stir in the already heated conflict with train unions.
The most common and easiest way of public transportation from Groningen to Schiphol airport is the train. Until now the only ways to go to Schiphol to catch an early flight were to go by car or arrive the day before, since Groningen is geographically located far away from Schiphol.
The first train had approximately 65-70 travellers on board and leaves from Groningen at 1.48 AM, although only once a week on Saturday. A night route from Maastricht to Schiphol also started in December.
“I’m proud that we seized this opportunity and have managed to mobilize in record time by using trains that would otherwise be idle during the night,” said Anne Hettinga, CEO of Arriva Netherlands in a press release calling it a historic moment in the Netherlands. Arriva had been preparing for this route since summer 2020.
Union expresses displeasure
But for the workers unions a night train is not good news. They have been organizing protests and strikes against the high workload and for higher salaries for some time now. Opening a night route at times of heated conflict has caused even more outrage. The train workers were protesting already at the launch of the Groningen night route, which was followed by a day of strikes.
Gus Staats, the spokesperson for the Federation for Dutch Trade Unions, told the Groningen Observer it is hard to fill shifts even during the day and they are sceptical about this night route.
“The day this service from Groningen started, Arriva didn’t run their service from Maastricht to Schiphol, we believe because of a lack of travellers,” he said. Staats emphasized the unions displeasure to use train staff to serve some tens of passengers.
Arriva spokesperson Jantina Oosterhoff told the GO that Arriva hires personnel for night routes externally. She argues against the criticism, stating that they can already see that the number of passengers is increasing on the Maastricht route as it becomes more known.
According to the company, the night route has the potential to take cars off the road and reduce local airport traffic and pollution. Arriva has high expectations for the route commercially.
Oosterhoff said it is too early to evaluate its profitability, however. “For now, we are starting with these night trains once a week and we will evaluate constantly to see if there is enough demand to extend our services,” said Oosterhoff.
Passengers who spoke to the GO are, to say the least, excited about the night train. Ame Geerlofs believes this is good for the environment and makes things easier for people in Groningen. “It is amazing you can travel at night, it spares you a lot of time,” she said.
Mark Mors said this is a massive improvement. “It is not like leaving from Amsterdam where you can leave any time you want to. From Groningen you have to plan your plane travel around the trains schedule and it is super inconvenient,” said Mors.