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Amsterdam ash cloud fallout: no planes, few hotels — train stations overwhelmed

DutchAmsterdam.nl — While a cloud of ash from the still-erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland continues to slowly spread across Europe, stranded air travelers across the world are scrambling for hotels, trains, ferries and even taxis to reach their destinations.

Airports in twenty European countries remain closed as some countries, including the Netherlands, enter their fourth day of disrupted air travel.

Amsterdam’s main train stations — Central Station, Amstel Station, as well as the train station at Schiphol Airport — are overwhelmed with long lines of people trying to reach their destination by train.

Early on Saturday morning the average wait time in queues at Schiphol’s NS (National Train Service) ticket windows was 4 hours.

An NS spokesperson points out that the airport station’s 10 ticket windows are trying to cope with thousands of travelers who are normally checked in at the counters of some forty airlines.

In addition, service at the ticket windows is slower than usual as workers are dealing with large numbers of complex international connections — while only three of Schiphol’s NS counters are equipped with the specialized computer equipment needed to make such connections.

Advice: Alternative Train Stations

• Travelers to Germany are advised to make their way to Utrecht.

• Travelers to Brussels can buy their tickets at machines

NS on Saturday added extra trains to Brussels and Paris, and all trains to those destinations were twice as long as usual.

At Amstel Station the Eurolines bus company has added extra buses to various destinations in Europe.

Stuck at the airport

At present it is very difficult to find rooms at hotels or hostels in or near Amsterdam. Only a few of the most expensive rooms remain available.

According to Haarlemmermeer mayor Theo Weterings 1.300 passengers are stuck at Schiphol Airport. The airport has provided beds.

On Saturday about a thousand locals called a special phone number to let authorities know they are willing to open their homes to stranded travelers.

Chaos

Meanwhile the ash cloud’s fall-out is spreading across the world as airlines in Asia, Africa, Australia and the U.S. are canceling flights to European destinations.

U.S. airlines canceled more than 80% of their flights to Europe on Saturday.

Even when airports re-open, clearing out the backlog of stranded passengers — while also serving additional travelers who booked their flights long before air traffic was disrupted — could days or even weeks.
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This post was last updated: May. 18, 2011