COVID-19: meet one of our frontline heroes, Ronald Overeem, train operator in the Netherlands

2020.17.07
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In the workshop of a train yard in Amersfoort in the Netherlands, train operator Ronald Overeem is laughing and joking with various colleagues walking by, obviously at a suitable distance.

He is a real ‘people person’, as he says himself. And that is noticeable in his dealings with the other employees on and around the marshalling yard. He operates on the Transdev’s train services called Valleilijn between Amersfoort and Ede-Wageningen. Cheerful and passionate, he talks about his work.

« Years ago, I started in the public transportation world as a bus driver. The contact with passengers was fantastic, but I wanted new, different challenges ». Ronald tells us that he worked as a truck driver and coach driver before he traded the asphalt for the railroad; « now I drive here every day through the ‘Gelderse Vallei’, a beautiful stretch with almost un-Dutch slopes. The most beautiful thing is to see how the landscape changes with the seasons, very special ».

During his services, Ronald single-handedly operates trains sometimes more than 100 meters long. « I sit at the front of the train in my cabin. That means I have less contact with passengers, but it’s much quieter working than, for example, on the bus. No busy roads, no distractions. It’s nice when you consider having responsibility for an entire train and its occupants. » However, the COVID-19 outbreak ‘affected’ his work: « the stations are so empty, it sometimes feels like I’m alone in the world. We also don’t have a stop button like the bus does, so we regularly stop at stations for nothing. And because in some trains we don’t have a door from the cabin directly to the platform, we sometimes must walk a bit through the train. Those parts are now blocked off so that we have a safe passage, but because of that we have even less contact with passengers ».

The timetable for the Valleilijn has also been scaled down as a result of the sharp decline in passenger numbers. « Normally we drive long and short ‘hauls’. The short ones from Amersfoort that do not go beyond Barneveld, have now been cancelled. In addition, we run a lower frequency, so fewer trains per hour, » explains Ronald. « Even with fewer trains it’s not nearly as busy as it used to be. Even though people seem to be getting impatient, it seems like it’s slowly getting busier again with, for example, day trippers, » he says somewhat worryingly.

I’m very grateful that we have a job at all these days, but it does me great to know that we can continue to transport the people who really need it. The communication and support from the company is also great. I am happy to work for such an employer in these times!

Ronald Overeem 

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