Towards a low carbon Dutch public transport system

bis-co2-1Last week I read this article (in Dutch) on ovpro.nl about the role of CO2 reduction in Dutch public transport concessions. The article was written based on a research report by CNG Net. I find it very interesting that I even shared it on my LinkedIn page. One of the conclusions of this research is that none of the public transport concession tenders, held in the last two years, had an aimed criterion of CO2 emissions reduction, while this criterion is very effective as it is a measurable criterion. With this, a public transport authority can monitor during the concession period whether the public transport company has reduced the COemissions, as offered during the tender.

Why is this very interesting to me? Because I have been having this question on my mind in the last years: “Why do the Dutch public transport authorities (PTAs) pay very little attention to COemissions reduction while they have enough power to require this from public transport companies?”.

I have been following the Dutch public transport concessions in the last years and had the opportunity to read some of the Specifications Documents (in Dutch: Bestek). The Sustainability criterion has 10%, at the most, of the total points. The most points (which can reach 50%) go to how much Effective Hours of Service (in Dutch:Dienstregelinguren/DRU’s) a public transport company can offer.

Here is the thing: I cannot think of a public transport company in the Netherlands that puts sustainability on the top of their agenda. In this recession time, a company only thinks how to keep the company running. Their responsibility to the PTA is to comply with what they already offered during the tender. So, let’s go back to the awarding criteria. Most of PT companies will not put a lot of effort for only maximum 10% points. They will do anything to score on the criterion with the highest weight, which is Effective Hours of Service which can be translated as the effective driving hours of the deployed vehicles. The more the hours, the better the score. But, do we really need all those hours? The service hours should be planned efficiently based on the demand. Otherwise, you would see what is already happening: busses driving around with almost no passenger. Is it then sustainable?

The current awarding system clearly does not create a healthy environment for a sustainable public transport system. So, why not for example the following awarding criteria: 30% for sustainability (including the targeted CO2 emissions reduction), 30% for effective hours of service and 40% for the rest. With this, the motivation of deploying more busses will be as high as taking concrete actions to reduce CO2 emissions.

I am curious to hear your opinion. Or do you know how this goes in other countries? Please leave your comment here below.

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