In June 2013, a majority of the members of the Lower House used the most powerful tool at their disposal: the parliamentary inquiry. After a lengthy history full of delays, threats of bankruptcy and disagreement with the Belgians, the last straw for the House was when the national railways (NS) took the Fyra high-speed train out of service in January 2013 after losing an undercarriage, and then in May 2013 decided to abandon Fyra permanently.
Based on the law on parliamentary inquiries, the inquiry commission can request information from all parties involved (public and private) and can question those involved under oath. The law states that the inquiry is aimed at uncovering the truth and learning lessons for the future. The main question posed by the inquiry was: why was the originally planned route across the south high-speed line not built?
The inquiry commission started work in December 2013 and finished with a debate in the Lower House on the final report in June 2016. Carla de Koning, Wim Gideonse and Erik van der Veen from AT Osborne assisted the board of Public Transport and Railways from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment throughout the inquiry. Our job consisted of meeting the requests from the inquiry commission for written information, which meant systematically working through the HSL archive to be able to provide all letters, memos, e-mails, reports, etc., often accompanied by a timeline or further explanation. At the same time, we created our own analyses of the items we provided for internal use. This helped us to prepare officials and members of government past and present for the private meetings and public hearings held by the inquiry commission.
Erik: “It was a huge job. The inquiry commission defined a broad scope of inquiry, covering the period from the end of the 1980s when the idea of a high-speed line was first put forward up to the alternative transport plan at the end of 2013. It looked into the call for tenders for transport, the ordering and construction of the rolling stock, the commissioning of the rolling stock and the creation of the alternative transport.” “That not only meant that it involved a huge amount of information, but also that the number of officials and politicians involved was very high”, adds Wim. According to Carla, it was a very wide-ranging task. “It not only involved the more technical activities like collecting, organising and filing, but it was also very personal. How can you help the officials and members of government, past and present, to get through the closed and public hearings? There is, of course, a lot of pressure when questioned in public, live on television, about what you did in relation to this project.”
After publication of the final report from the inquiry commission in October 2015, AT Osborne worked on the cabinet’s reaction and the preparation and assistance for the debate between the Lower House and the cabinet that took place in June 2016.
Read more about the parliamentary inquiry on the Lower House‘s website.