NS Newspeak

The NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) is the Dutch national passenger rail company. I have an annual subscription that entitles me to 40% discount on train fares, and up to six days free travel (keuzedagen) on the entire Dutch rail network. These keuzedagen are available to people who are 60 and above.

Yesterday, I received an email from the NS. It started promisingly enough (in translation):

We want to make our subscription offerings less complicated and more flexible for all travellers.

Well, excellent, I’m all for that. But then it goes on:

Due to the growing number of travellers, the afternoon rush hour is getting busier and the need to ensure a better spread of our travellers throughout the day. Unfortunately, we cannot maintain giving a 40% discount during the afternoon rush hour.

Eh? What was that about “less complicated and more flexible”? Introducing a period when the 40% discount doesn’t apply makes things more complicated and less flexible, surely?

Not only that, but the keuzedag free travel will magically become invalid during the afternoon rush hour. What if I am in the middle of my journey when the clock strikes four? Does the ticket inspector swoop down on me and issue a fine?

The final flourish in the email is the announcement that keuzedagen will no longer be available to people who turn 60 after 2021. I can continue to receive them as part of my annual subscription, but I’ll be part of a dwindling group as we all die off – much to the relief of the NS, I expect.

I can only reflect on the effrontery of the NS (and Tjalling Smit, director of commerce and development, who has sent out this email) and consider it a fine example of Newspeak.  

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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