Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God Help You on Dutch Railways

God help you if you have a problem with your "Oyster" RFID card on Dutch railways. Because you won't get much help from human beings. Bear with me or skip to the bottom for my conclusions.

The Saga

Somewhere between checking in at Hilversum station and being checked by a conductor on the train to Amsterdam (near Weesp), something happened to my NS travel card which made it unreadable on the little device they carry. First I am accused of not checking in. So I asked them to phone Hilversum station to check whether I had indeed checked in. And I had. That's where the smiles ended. At Schiphol Amsterdam station, I couldn't check out of the ticketing system.

So I phoned the Customer Service number on the back of the card. I quickly realised that I should press the other option to avoid getting into a tree of automated answers which basically tell you to put the phone down and log-on to About two minutes later talked to someone who went through all the security checks possible and then told me she couldn't log me out of the system nor ask for a new card. "No, you will have to go to a counter at a manned railway station to get two forms. One to send the card back for a replacement, for which there is a charge. And you need to get a claim form because if you haven't logged out of the Dutch Railways system after 4 hours, then the system fines you 10 Euro extra". The customer service agent said she has access to my account but couldn't log me out even though I was trying to report a defective card.

Attempting a Solution

Hope you don't have a train to catch.
Joined the long queue at Schiphol railway station. Waited for ages as someone was told off for paying with a foreign credit card that didn't have a chip in it. Finally, a free agent. Explained the problem again. The agent went off to look for a form in the cupboard. He didn't have the claim form and couldn't do anything more for me because he couldn't read the card. Next?

Dinglish on the Internet

Dinglish - been like that for ages. Love the FAQ's
Went to the customer service pages on the Interwebs. Just for amusement, let's assume I don't understand Dutch. Well, then you're sunk because I think they've used Google Translate to translate about half the site - the rest is in Dutch. Oh, and there's a bit of cheery news in Dutch that the Post Office has delays at the moment so that might affect delivery of new cards.


I find it a disgrace that NS customer service cannot do anything to check people out and order a replacement card with one phone call. My card is in the post - during which time I have no valid proof I have a subscription to NS at all. I'm told a replacement card will take two weeks, postal slowdown permitting.

My conclusion is that NS is a public monopoly where NS stands for No Service. God help places where Dutch railways is winning contracts to run other railways in the UK. I hope UK consumer shows keep a close watch on the performance of Abellio. Sadly, the experience from the lowlands mother ship is simply awful!
Hilversum station at 6 pm today. No-one in information, sorry. 

Will do an update when I get a new card - and perhaps some money back.
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