EBS buses will drive in Haaglanden from 2019

Edition 30 August 2018, by Stephen Swai

EBS has won the concession to provide public bus transport for the Haaglanden area, from 25 August 2019 to 14 December 2030. Connexxion and Keolis were also bidding for the concession, that has a value of almost €400 million. The current carrier, Connexxion, will hand over in August 2019. This is not the first time for Connexxion to lose a concession. In 2012, the company lost the Leiden-Alphen-Gouda area to Arriva. The Haaglanden concession will include bus transport in the municipalities of Delft, Midden-Delfland, Pijnacker-Nootdorp, Westland, Wassenaar and Zoetermeer. A number of routes in The Hague and Hoek van Holland will also fall under its exclusive right. The city buses in The Hague, Rijswijk and Leidschendam- Voorburg, provided by HTMbuzz, are not included in the concession.

Speaking after awarding the concession, Marc Rosier, board member of the Transport Committee of the Metropolitan Region Rotterdam The Hague (MRDH), said: “EBS has given substance to themes that are extremely important to the residents. Eco-friendly buses that will run from next year will gain double profit for the residents.” There was a lot of interest in zeroemission buses when selecting the new carrier, following the Vision of MRDH of reducing carbon emission in transportation by 30 percent by 2025. The Metropolitan area is also investing €15 million to develop automatic transport.

From August 2019, EBS will operate 23 electric buses that will run in Zoetermeer and Delft. In other municipalities, 93 hybrid green buses will be deployed at first, later to be replaced by zero-emission ones in 2026 and 2027. All buses will have air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and USB connections. EBS will provide 11 percent more transport by running its buses for longer hours, and in a number of connections also at higher frequencies. Furthermore, EBS will link its bus transport as close as possible to other transport in the region, giving rail the first priority. Thus it will make sure that travelers experience the entire travel chain as a single entity. EBS bus transport will complement other transport systems, instead of competing with them.

Demonstrating its ability to respond to various challenges, like new forms of transport and technological developments, EBS is developing a special app that will integrate public transport with other types of transport, such as shared electric bicycles and shared cars. “We have offered such an app at Voorne-Putten,” says EBS spokesperson Jasper Vermeer. However, the concession has raised concerns among drivers and trade unions. Drivers of FNV Transport are curious about how EBS will operate, and what its effect will be on the shop floor. This takes into account the bid, which was below a competitive one from Connexxion, and the plan to run buses for longer hours and with higher frequencies.

FNV Transport is also critical of the concession. Its spokesperson, Ron Sinnige, pointed out that new market forces are operating at the expense of drivers. Although EBS will be bound by the collective labor agreement for regional transport, EBS might use old driving schedules, and force drivers to work for longer hours, before taking a break. “This could affect the terms of employment,” added Sinnige. The director of EBS, Wim Kurver, said: “EBS is very pleased with the decision of MRDH and its clear vision on improving mobility throughout the region. The company sees great opportunities to improve the travel experience for customers, working in close cooperation with many partners, primarily HTM and RET.”

EBS, which is a subsidiary of Israeli Egged Group, one of the largest bus operators in the world, has strengthened its position in the Dutch market after winning the concession. In the Dutch market, the operator is still a relatively small player, with three public transport concessions: Waterland in North Holland, the Rotterdam region of Voorne-Putte and now for Haaglanden. The Haaglanden concession is good news for the company, which has experienced financial troubles after miscalculating the Waterland tender. The government has allowed companies to bid every few years, with the intention of allowing companies that offer the best service at lowest cost to operate.