NETHERLANDS Prime Minister Wim Kok revealed details on January 15 of the arrangements for funding and building the HSL Zuid high speed line between Amsterdam and the Belgian border. The public-private partnership formula developed by the government’s HSL Zuid planning agency will see the state procure the civil engineering works, while a private sector consortium will develop, build and maintain the line with responsibility for track, signalling and power supply. The private consortium will also manage paths and let them to train operators, who will pay fees to the government for use of the line. Ownership of the route will remain with the government, which is to rule by June on how operators will be given access.In return for initial investment of 1·5bn guilders, the consortium is expected to be granted a 30-year concession. Total investment in the project, which requires 100 route-km of new construction and substantial upgrading, will be around 8bn guilders.The funding formula was chosen after extensive consultations last year (RG 7.98 p441), with HSL Zuid’s plans attracting interest from more than 130 companies. The civil engineering works, to be completed in six lots, are now at the tender stage, and the next step will be to call international bids for the concession, with the associated mechanical and electrical works. A winner will be picked in 2000, which should allow opening in 2005, a date agreed contractually with Belgium. In that year 6·6 million passengers are expected to use HSL Zuid services, of which 1·7 million are likely to switch from the airlines.To put HSL Zuid in context, it will complete new high speed tracks most of the way from Paris to Amsterdam, allowing Thalys journey times to be cut to 3h 3min. Projected timing for through Eurostar services from London is 3h 39min.HLatest Dutch train operating company is Syntus, which has secured rights to run trains on two routes east of Arnhem: Zutphen – Winterswijk and Doetinchem – Winterswijk. Syntus aims to run half-hourly services throughout the day, and hoped to call tenders last month for 13 light diesel railcars to replace from 2001 the mixture of DMUs with which it started out. A disadvantage will be the end of through services between Arnhem and Winterswijk.