The Dutch Train System

I knew the woman at the train station information desk could see the heart-break in my eyes as I approached. I explained to her that, for whatever reason, I’d taken the wrong train, or had failed to get off the right train or something like that, and that’s how I ended up in Leiden (thirty minutes south of Amsterdam) instead of at Amsterdam Centraal.

Calmly she told me that I should get on the next direct train (leaving in about ten minutes) and that I should explain the situation to the conductor when he asked to see my ticket. I got the feeling this wasn’t the first time she’d told a foreign tourist to do something like this. For my part I didn’t actually tell her it was my second trip to Leiden today, as I’d done exactly the same thing earlier in the morning.

The hand-written note from a lovely woman at the train station.
The hand-written note from a lovely woman at the train station.

In a country that’s about as large as the combined area of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, they have a comprehensive train network. The network map, however, bears a remarkable resemblance to Kim Beazley’s famous “Noodle Nation” with many intersections, and I think that’s where it all went wrong. I think part of the problem is that so many trains go through the airport without necessarilly going via the perhaps badly-named Amsterdam Centraal.

It was nice to get out of Amsterdam and see some of the country-side. And oh my goodness, it really is flat.

My goal for the day was a visit to Hilversum, the headquarters of Radio Nederland where a colleague from Canberra is currently working.

I’ve also been a long term listener to Radio Nederland. As a ten year old I was an avid short-wave listener, and was especially a fan of the famous “Happy Station” program. Somewhere at home I’m sure I still have cards and letters from the program’s legendary presenter Tom Meyer and his assistant Tineke. The fact that I can remember that kind of detail is perhaps an indication of how significant it was for me to make a visit.

As it turns out, it’s just like every other radio station in the world, although they did have an interestingly-designed circular newsroom to encourage interaction. The people I met for lunch and was shown around were incredibly warm, kind people, and I’m very grateful for the hospitality they showed me. Nice stuff.

And then of course, I caught the train back to Amsterdam, via Leiden.

3 responses to “The Dutch Train System”

  1. Peter – this online translation makes no sense, but I think I know what you’re saying…

    “All those expatriate are only zwartrijders, and then have still excuse also!”

  2. Caught in the act!

    Zwartrijders are people who don’t pay for public transport. Those Italians on their way to Berlin they were ‘zwartrijders’ because they knew they had to stamp their ticket but didn’t do it.

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