Covid-19: Meet two of our hidden heroes, Evert Jan Bouw and Berend Westerbrink from the Netherlands

2020.24.07
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Everyone who works for Transdev in the Netherlands knows that the ‘ROV’, Regiecentrum Openbaar Vervoer (Operational Control Center or OCC) supports frontline employees such as drivers in carrying out their daily tasks, from planning sudden diversions to calling in assistance in the event of breakdowns.

« Unfortunately, there are some colleagues who have a wrong perception of us and our work. We are here for the drivers. Just like they don’t leave their passengers waiting for no reason, we don’t send the drivers in the wrong direction on purpose. We do the best we can, » says Evert Jan Bouw, traffic controller. Together with his colleague Berend Westerbrink, he gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of this part of the Transdev organization in Nieuwegein, the Netherlands.

Evert Jan has been working at the OCC in Nieuwegein from 2014 and for three years now he has been acting as traffic controller: « I am actually a kind of floor manager. I have a coordinating role in managing the day-to-day operations ». Berend is one of the colleagues who is managed by Evert Jan. He has been working for the company for two years now, but thanks to his father (who worked at a bus depot in Almere) he has been interested in public transportation and especially its management from an early age. « Even though at my first job interview I was afraid that I had messed up, because I described the OCC as ‘a beehive’, a kind of organized chaos, » he says laughing.

The term ‘chaos’ was initially somewhat frowned upon, but fortunately my idea became clear when I explained that from the outside, for drivers for example, it may seem like chaos, but that every ‘bee’ is part of structure and order. It is from up close that you can really see that everyone is in the right place to do the right work.

Berend

Last February, the OCC moved from Utrecht to a modern, new location in Nieuwegein. With some 20 regional depots spread throughout the Netherlands under their care, the employees do their utmost to keep an overview and act proactively. « That’s the fun part of the job, I think. Making it a sport to be ahead of problems, » says Berend enthusiastically. Evert Jan adds: « We try to avoid delays or dangerous situations. Because of our experience and very advanced systems, we can follow every bus and see where problems might arise ».

These advanced computer systems, which the employees use by means of four monitors per desk, are immediately the reason that working from home is not an option for the employees. In the Covid-19 crisis they do not notice that it is much quieter. Normally, the OCC receives about 1,100 to 1,200 calls per day, in addition to another 500 phone calls.

« Those numbers may be a little lower now, but the reports we’re getting are slightly different than normal. There are fewer reports of delays, for example, but more reports of aggression, » says Evert Jan. « In addition, the protocols for ‘vehicle full reports’ are different because of the COVID-19 measures. » In addition to the activities in Nieuwegein, there is also a control center in Arnhem, which serves the Arnhem and Nijmegen region specifically. « In addition to the buses, the trains in that region are also controlled from Arnhem. Normally we used to work alternately at one of the two locations, but with the current measures we now stay in one place for a while, » says Berend.

The fact that OCC employees have a heart for the business is immediately noticeable on the work floor. Berend skillfully clicks from program to program to help a driver out of trouble. Immediately afterwards, a call comes in from a driver who had a disagreement with a passenger who did not want to keep a safe distance from other passengers. « Work never stops, » says Berend. Nothing but the truth, because a few seconds later the next call appears on his screen: « Good afternoon, OCC, Berend speaking, go ahead! »

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