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Amsterdam public transport strike

DutchAmsterdam.nl — Amsterdam public transport provider GVB is on strike today. Between 10 am and 2 pm no trams, buses or metros will be running.

The ferries behind Central Station, connecting Amsterdam-North with the rest of the city, will continue to operate.

Rotterdam public transport service RET will strike on April 12, followed by The Hague’s HTM on April 20.

The Dutch government is seeking save € 120 million by putting all three services out to public tender. Amsterdam stands to lose the biggest share of the money.

The budget cuts are part of the government’s coalition agreement.

Unions and the transport providers say the cuts will result — two or three years from now — in a 40% reduction in services.

The protest strikes follow an earlier action in February. On February 14 Amsterdam’s GVB operated a greatly reduced service, running far fewer buses, trams and metros than normal.

At the time the company said the reduced schedule was a foretaste of what the service would look like in three years time if the government’s plans were adopted.

Union boss Eric Vermeulen of Abvakabo FNV said today’s action show we’re serious. “We’re accommodating travelers by still servicing the rush hours.”

However, if the planned cuts remain on the table, harder actions will follow, Vermeulen warns.

Cuts in service start next year

Last January Amsterdam alderman Eric Wiebes, responsible for Traffic, Transport and Infrastructure, said next year GVB will already have to reduce evening- and weekend services. Doing so will save the city € 13 million.

Amsterdam, along with other cities, is facing drastic budget cuts as a result of national austerity measures put in to place to deal with the local aftermath of the recent global financial crisis.

“These are major measures that will affect many Amsterdammers,” Wiebes acknowledged at the time.

The situation looks even more dire for the years following 2012. In the years 2013 through 2017 Amsterdam must save on average € 70 million a year.

“We cannot save much on maintenance and the infrastructure,” Wiebes explained. “The money will mainly have to come from the € 122 million exploitation budget, which will be halved starting in 2013.”

“Impossible” budget cuts

The consequences will be enormous, Wiebes said. Of the 16 tram lines in use today, six will be discontinued. Twenty bus lines will be cut, leaving only 24 lines in operation. Metro lines will run less often.

Many bus-, tram, and metro lines will also be shortened. As a result passengers will be forced to transfer more often.

“The situation is far worse than most Amsterdammers realize,” the alderman said, calling the cuts “impossible.”

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