At Amsterdam Zuid station, it’s impossible to overlook the rules: there are posters everywhere detailing the current coronavirus measures. Face-coverings are compulsory on the train and metro but not in the station itself – at least for now. However, you must keep a distance of 1.5 m. ‘We provide some reminders on the posters’, says Dutch Railways (NS) station manager Peter Hagen. ‘For example, there must be four stairs between you and your fellow traveller on the escalator, there’s room for a maximum of two people in the lifts and on the platform, you have to keep a distance of five tiles away. There are also stickers of face-coverings on the platform to remind people that they’re compulsory on public transport.’
Since 1 June, Hagen has noticed a few more people than before, but it’s not busy yet. ‘It’s also not expected to get very busy in the short term. People are still being advised to work from home and only travel if their journey is essential. Besides, the summer holiday is almost starting and, even without coronavirus, it’s visibly quieter in Zuidas in the summer.’ The shops in the station have now all reopened, although not all of them with the usual opening hours. Hagen: ‘That lifts the mood quite a bit.’
On the train
Although the rules for public transport are almost the same everywhere, another specific measure applies on the train: there are green stickers indicating where you can sit. NS is also using cameras and staff to monitor how busy it is on the trains. If it gets very busy or there are disruptions, NS can advise against certain routes. Buses are also being used less often as alternatives in the case of disruptions. This is because buses have far fewer seats and it’s difficult to maintain a distance of 1.5 m.
On the GVB buses, trains and metros, it is not yet hugely busy. Spokesperson Manon Huisman: ‘Our vehicles currently have a maximum capacity of 40%, it’s compulsory to wear a face-covering and you must get on in the middle or at the back. In practice, the vehicles are still less than 40% full. We encourage this by advising people to avoid the peak when making essential journeys.’ GVB leaves it to the passengers to decide what an essential journey is. ‘It’s not up to us to judge on that. But we do ask travellers to apply common sense and consider whether cycling is a viable alternative, for example.’
GVB does not enforce observance of the rules. Huisman: ‘Of course, a driver can say something, but the enforcement is left to special investigating officers. If you don’t wear a face-covering, you risk getting a fine.’ GVB calls on people to keep their distance and to be kind both to fellow travellers and drivers. ‘We’ve noticed that the latter can sometimes be forgotten, even now that the drivers are protected from passengers by marking tape.’ Unlike in normal times, passengers cannot buy tickets from the driver. Everyone must ensure they have sufficient balance on their OV (public transport) chip card. The same rules apply for the bus company Connexxion.
Zuidas bicycle parks
Things are also different at the bicycle parks in Zuidas. There are three public underground bicycle parks managed by NS: Mahlerplein, Zuidplein and Strawinskylaan. Because it was so quiet, Strawinskylaan was the only one open for the first months. Mahlerplein reopened on 18 May and the newly-renovated Zuidplein facility opened its doors on 15 June 2020. Judith Horrevorts, district manager Services at NS: ‘Since it’s still not very busy, there’s no need for arrows to highlight preferred routes or 1.5 m markings. We have, however, put some poles by the entrance, so people will keep to the right.’ At all three bicycle parks, the coronavirus rules are displayed at the entrances. There are also now screens at the desks, making it possible to check out your bike or pay safely. ‘Checking in is even easier: contactless at the entrance.’ All OV bikes have their handlebars, locks and saddles cleaned regularly.