State of the Maas | 3 May 2015

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Far removed from the Randstad, the political, economic, and cultural heart of this country, lies the province of Limburg. In recent months, it appeared in the news only when yet another of its politicians found himself tangled up in a corruption scandal and/or conflict of interest. Its inhabitants, including yours truly, are o en ridiculed for their odd dialect and inability to speak Dutch in a way in which members from the country’s other 11 provinces are able to understand it as well. However, despite the somewhat negative image, cities like our very own Maastricht still manage to attract lots of tourists, who somewhere next year, would be able to enjoy the best public transport system in the country, since two months ago it was announced that a er having to use the same set of trains for over 50 years, Abellio, a daughter company of state-owned National Railway operator NS, would pimp Limburg’s trains like good old Xzibit used to do over on MTV.

Speaking of the NS: that’s the exact same company which carried the Breaking Maas team to Amsterdam’s Kings Day festivities last Monday. As many of the Dutch students who travel back home during the weekends will know only all too well, the quality of the railway carriages increases exponentially the further you travel up North (i.e. away from Limburg). So while we started our journey in the old le over trains from the 60’s the NS still runs in and around Maastricht, by the time we hit Eindhoven we could enter a carriage which actually had so and individual chairs. Our last transfer took place in Utrecht, where we could board a fast and silently-running train which even had Wi-Fi on-board, so we could check this blog’s hit counter and feel disappointed for the remainder of our journey.

A er having some drinks at the Leidseplein and strapping on our dancing shoes at the Kingsday Festival at the Olympic Festival, we decided to spend the a ernoon strolling around the Vondelpark, where the annual Vrijmarkt was being held, one of the largest Jumble Sales in the country. A er giving into buying some ABBA records on vinyl, we were very surprised to notice a stand owned by Province of Limburg deputy Patrick van der Broeck, the mastermind behind the Abellio deal. What he had on sale was even more remarkable: Limburg’s entire railway network! Apparently, the Abellio deal was off, because this company had been able to secure the deal by using secret information from Veolia, their biggest competitor. When we asked how Abellio had been able to get their hands on something that valuable, Patrick told us that they had paid René de Beer, local Veolia top executive, 207.000 Euros, plus promising him a top management position in their own firm. Somehow, this story had go en out, which resulted in de Beer being under national police investigation, Abellio more or less backing out with a now worthless reputation, and Limburg ending up with the same old trains from the 60s. Oh yes, and yet another headline involving the words Limburg and Scandal. Looks like Xzibit is our only hope – could he pimp our trains?

When news becomes so monotonous and predictable, it is no wonder that 25% of all local journalists have quit their jobs in the last 10 years, at least according to a U.S. survey. What’s even more depressing though, is that some very talented individuals have stopped writing pieces which were beloved by many local readers, and that blogs like this still continue to pollute your Facebook timeline. No worries, if the trend continues, I will have to quit as a result of a conflict of interest in the next 3 months. Let’s just hope

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