While other European cities suffer ludicrous journey times and confusing transport connections between their airport and city center, it would appear that some in the commuting paradise of Amsterdam are less than happy with the 15 minute journey-time between the city’s main train station, Amsterdam Centraal, and Schiphol Airport.
Former councillor for sustainability for the left-wing liberals D66 and, now, CEO of Amsterdam transport company GVB (funny how neatly post-politics employment works out) Alexandra van Huffelen is demanding that the tax-payer coughs up for a new metro line to Schiphol from IJbury through Osdorp and the Reiker polder.
More fiscally conservative politicians are reluctant to commit public money to a major new transport project as they are still reeling from the two billion Euro overspend and six year delay on the North-South metro line but van Huffelen, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a hobbit with lipstick, is insistent that this exciting new adventure in open-ended government spending is necessary because not everyone wants to have to travel through Central Station or Amsterdam-Zuid station.
Referring to the multi-billion Euro North-South fiasco, van Huffelen actually said: “We now know how to dig a tunnel and this is knowledge we must use”.
While any Amsterdammer with half a brain (and the latest research shows that 82% of Amsterdammers now have upwards of half a brain) will be alarmed at the prospect of seeing the government cock up what is currently a perfectly fast and reliable connection between Schiphol airport, Amsterdam and the rest of the country, and while even those with less than half a brain will be upset and rattle their chains at the prospect of yet more years of unnecessary construction and traffic delays in Amsterdam, one must understand the unique perspective of ex-political hack van Huffelen.
As the newly installed CEO of GVB, a private company whose government subsidy is set to drop from €1000 million per year to just €36 million ?er year in ten years time, Alexandra van Huffelen is desperate to replace that money with increased ticket sales. GVB was counting on the North-South line to provides that increase but, obviously, the six year delay has kicked that plan into the long grass. By pumping public money into even greater expansion of the train network that GVB expects to keep winning the contract to run, van Huffelen hopes to reassure investors that it is worth swallowing a loss in the short-term because bumper profits will be just a few years away.
More importantly, GVB will lose the entire contract to run public transport in Amsterdam if they fail to increase passenger numbers from 750,000 to one million. At this stage, it is panic stations at GVB and, the way they see it, the more train lines the better.
Critics point out that that the current rail connections, running to both Amsterdam Centraal and Amsterdam-Zuid in the south of the city, are already perfect for the vast majority of frequent flyers and tourists who use Schiphol. The only tangible benefit of spending billions more of public money on this scheme will be to prevent an ex-politician from getting fired from her cushy job but, of course, the politicians who are currently in power may be surprisingly sympathetic to that argument.