A decade of growth and future ambitions

Posted: 23 January 2009 | | No comments yet

As Arriva Nederland moves into its 11th year, Managing Director Anne Hettinga reflects on a decade of expansion and delivery for its customers.

As Arriva Nederland moves into its 11th year, Managing Director Anne Hettinga reflects on a decade of expansion and delivery for its customers.

As Arriva Nederland moves into its 11th year, the business reflects on a decade of expansion and delivery for its customers. When Arriva entered the Dutch transport market in January 1998 with the acquisition of two bus companies – Vancom Nederland and Veonn & Hanze – it was relatively unknown in the country.

Now it is one of the country’s top three private bus operators and the Netherlands’ largest private rail operator.
This change, from being a newcomer in the liberalising European transport market to a key player both in terms of breadth of operations and transport policy opinion, has been achieved through a comprehensive business strategy and a dedicated team of employees.

Our business has focused extensively on establishing contact networks and relationships locally, regionally and nationally. We have dedicated extensive time and effort into learning about the nuances of local transport markets so we are better placed to understand and respond to differing passenger and client body needs. Arriva has also worked to ensure operating businesses are led by managers drawn from the communities we serve.

Within 12 months of entering the Dutch transport market, Arriva Nederland had initiated and embarked on a joint venture with the state-owned rail operator NS Rail.

This involved combining Arriva’s established bus operations with NS Rail’s services to provide integrated transport in the north of the country. The joint venture was significant in the Dutch transport market as it represented the first rail privatisation in the Netherlands. It also sent a clear signal to the Dutch governing body of Arriva’s ability and commitment to working in partnership to deliver transport services.

Initially operating as Noordned, NS Rail  and Arriva successfully delivered rail  services for six years in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen. At the same time, Arriva Nederland continued to build its reputation and Dutch transport business by securing a large tender to provide bus services in Groningen until 2008.

This overlap with the Noordned rail operation established Arriva as a significant player in the region’s transport services and set the stage for 2005 which was undoubtedly Arriva Nederland’s most significant year.

Alongside securing tenders to operate bus services in Waterland, north of Amsterdam, DAV and Brabant in central Holland and Hoeksche Waard and Goeree Overflakkee, Arriva stepped out on its own in rail.

The end of the Noordned franchise presented a real opportunity for Arriva Nederland, with the backing of the wider  Arriva group, to bid to become sole operator  of the franchise.

In March 2005, Arriva was selected by the Province of Groningen to operate the 15-year franchise, which has a total revenue over the life of the franchise estimated to be in the region of €750 million. The new franchise started on 11 December 2005 and was rebranded as Arriva.

One of the key commitments contained within the new franchise was that Arriva would buy and introduce 43 new Stadler DMU-GTW Spurt trains.

The direct procurement of rolling stock was a new approach for the Netherlands and underlined Arriva’s commitment to the franchise.

Following the order, Arriva (working in close partnership with Stadler) delivered its first train into service several weeks ahead of schedule with the first train being driven into Groningen Station on 1 November 2006 by the then Dutch transport minister Karla Peijs.

The trains offer our customers the latest in safety and comfort with wide seats, real-time information screens and easy accessibility for people with disabilities. The Spurts also have onboard CCTV and the highest European standard for safety.

Supported by innovative marketing campaigns, passenger demand soared following the introduction of the new trains. This resulted in Arriva entering into negotiations with the provincial authorities and securing agreement to order and introduce a further three trains. Over the past 36 months, Arriva Nederland has seen a 37% increase in passengers on its Groningen-Friesland franchise.

With all of the investment in new trains, Arriva was determined to have the highest standard of maintenance tailored to our business needs. For the first time, Arriva opened up a competitive tender for its maintenance work and offered other suppliers the opportunity to bid against Nedtrain, the country’s market leader in train maintenance.

Following this, Arriva decided to establish  a maintenance partnership with Voith, with Voith opening its first maintenance facility in the Netherlands specifically to maintain  Arriva’s Spurt fleet. The state-of-the-art workshops at Leeuwarden have set a new standard for fleet maintenance.

Passengers are now enjoying punctuality of over 95% on average, which has made rail travel a practical choice for many people from the Province of Groningen. Indeed in the Netherlands, our train performance is approximately 10% above the national average.

The introduction of our new trains made it possible to start a new cross-border service into Leer in Germany from November 2006. Our trains became the first to be approved for cross-border operation.

The success of Arriva’s rail operations in Groningen and Friesland played an important role in our expansion in the Dutch rail market. In 2007, we retained our DAV bus contract – now enhanced to include rail services.

The €500 million bus and rail contract, awarded by the Province of Zuid-Holland, sees Arriva operating rail services on the Merwede-Linge line between Dordrecht and Geldermalsen for 12 years.

Services got off to a positive start in December 2007 and within a matter of weeks, Arriva announced that it had signed a £30 million contract with Stadler to purchase seven new EMU-GTW Spurt electric trains for the MerwedeLingelijn. The first were brought into service in September 2008. After this Arriva announced that it had ordered three more new EMU-GTE Spurt trains which will enter service by the end of 2010.

While investment, local knowledge and a vision to develop services are key to Arriva Nederland’s success, its people remain its greatest asset.

With 3,000 people working every day to deliver bus and rail services for customers, a real focus on training is essential. The business invests in providing the training staff need  to deliver their job to the standard that we know our customers expect and deserve.  This includes programmes varying from  front-line customer service training to management development programmes.

Nurturing new talent in the industry is also something which Arriva Nederland is actively pursuing – as an investment for its future.

For a number of years, the business has operated an undergraduate programme which has provided the opportunity for students to participate in a ‘sandwich’ placement with Arriva as part of their studies.

In addition, Arriva Nederland has recently launched its first graduate training programme. Based on a model already used successfully by Arriva in the UK, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Denmark and Sweden, it provides university graduates with the chance to enhance their business skills and build a management career in the transport industry. It also gives Arriva the opportunity to bring high potential young people into its business.

As part of their training, the graduates are provided with three six-month placements. These include an operational management role which can be in any part of Arriva’s bus or rail business. The placement aims to provide a sound understanding of frontline operations with them working alongside depot managers to oversee one of Arriva’s operational facilities.

The second placement is a project management role which is supported by off-the-job training. This aims to equip graduate trainees with the ability to see complex business projects through all stages to successful completion.
The final six months of the placement sees the graduates placed in a real job within Arriva Nederland which will prepare them for a potential permanent role with the business.

As a part of the initiative, the graduates also get an opportunity to learn about transport operations in other Arriva operating countries. They visit Arriva depots and rail maintenance facilities across Europe in order to widen their experience and share best practice, building up a contact network with their peers in other Arriva businesses.

Throughout the whole training programme, the graduates receive extensive mentoring support from a designated Senior Manager to enable them develop the skills that help them contribute to the success of the Arriva team.

Through our people, Arriva continues to focus on improving services for passengers and our local authority partners. We are working with our employees and stakeholders on a wide range of initiatives to deliver improvements.

These include projects to increase line capacity, improve connections and heighten station platforms to allow better accessibility for customers. We are also preparing to open a rail line between Veendam and Groningen which has been closed for the last 70 years and are exploring the potential of re-opening other lines in the region.

While the last 10 years show significant growth through contract wins and acquisitions, the story does not end there. We have an ambition to grow the business further by expanding current concessions and winning market share through the tendering process. The prospect of further liberalisation in the Dutch transport market sees Arriva  Nederland well placed to compete for new franchises and show how the private sector  can innovate and deliver.

Arriva’s growth and ability to deliver for its customers comes from the group’s core value of partnership. By engaging tendering authorities and local stakeholders, we have been able to drive our business forward for the benefit of our customers and show how private operators can make a difference. Ours is a story of service improvements and passenger growth – and  we believe we have a lot more to offer in the next decade.

Arriva Nederland – key facts

  • Vehicles: 50 trains and 1,000 buses
  • Employees: 3,000
  • Rail track kms: 7,600,000
  • Timetable hours: 125,000

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