By most accounts, an effective transportation system is a fundamental component of any solid economy, as it enables the citizens to achieve their set goals at appointed schedules.
The Netherlands or Holland, as it is unofficially referred to, has a very organised and unique transport system that makes it easy for its citizens to move around.
The major means of transportation in the Netherlands are bicycles, cars, buses and trains.
Bicycles are the preferred means of transportation for short distances in the country and many riders usually park their bicycles at designated spots at bus or train stations while going on long journeys.
Similarly, most people often drive their cars to these stations and park there before going aboard buses or trains for longer trips.
Some even haul their bicycles into trains, while setting out on long journeys, to enable them to use the bicycles to complete their journeys after disembarking from the trains.
Riding a bicycle in the Netherlands is somewhat a thing of pride and it is not restricted to any particular status of class because every citizen of Holland, from 15 years and above, owns a bicycle.
Besides, there is always a train in every 20 minutes at every train station, while a bus leaves a bus stop in every 30 minutes.
Whenever there is going to be a delay in the arrival of a train at a railway station, the expected period of delay would be displayed on the electronic board at the station and this is usually about 5 minutes and never more than 20 minutes.
And within five minutes or ten minutes later, depending on the time indicated on the electronic board, the train arrives.
Even train or bus commuters in the Netherlands can check arrival or departure times for trains and buses on the Internet, meaning that they do not have to linger at the stations waiting for the arrival of a train or bus.
Mr Edwin Van-Scherrenburg, the Public Relations Officer of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the Dutch railway company, however, conceded that the country’s weather was largely unfavourable to the transport business.
He noted that the snow in winter and the falling leaves from trees in autumn, for instance, usually made it somewhat difficult for trains to operate efficiently during the seasons.
Van-Scherrenburg, however, said that in spite of these challenges, some measures were put in place to ensure that passengers were not delayed for too long.
One notable feature of the transportation system of the Netherlands is the synergy between buses and trains. Information usually comes on the bus about the next train and the nearest train station and so, if you are interested in catching a train, the information becomes quite handy.
Van-Scherrenburg expatiated that the symbiotic relationship between NS and bus companies was aimed at connecting the two modes of transportation in a way that would ensure the smooth movement of passengers, while reducing travel disruptions via unnecessary delays.
He, nonetheless, acknowledged that there was still room for improvement, saying: “We are continuously looking for ways to improve the relationship.’’
Funny enough, you hardly hear anyone in the Netherlands talking about boarding a plane to another part of the country. Planes are only used by those travelling outside the country.
Some Nigerians, who have lived and worked in the Netherlands for some years, attested to the efficiency of the Dutch transport system.
They agreed that if the system was adopted by Nigeria, living in the country would be well structured, orderly and more appealing.
Mr Kingley Ogbuneke, who has lived in the Netherlands for over four years, said that the country’s transportation system was so effective, noting that trains and buses usually kept to scheduled travel times.
“These days, you can hook on to the Internet and know the precise time you’ll be arriving at your destination; honestly, it will work exactly that way,’’ he added.
Ogbuneke, however, noted with disappointment that Nigeria’s transportation system was still facing a huge challenge, even after five decades of political independence.
“In Nigeria, we still rely heavily on private vehicles for our transportation because our public transportation system is not well organised,’’ he said.
Ogbuneke stressed that if more resources were invested in the country’s transport sector, the ordinary Nigerian would not have to rely solely of private vehicles for his or her transportation.
“Here in the Netherlands, people hardly use their cars because the public transportation system is very effective,’’ he added.
Ms Sylivia Oheme has been living in the Netherlands for the past 20 years.
She said that the Dutch transport sector was well structured and organised, stressing that for instance, when a person wanted to travel from Amsterdam to The Hague, he or she would know exactly how long the journey would take, barring instances where there were a few minutes’ delays.
Oheme emphasised that Holland’s transport sector was very efficient because of the constant electricity supply in the country
She particularly attributed the efficiency of the country’s railways to the stable electricity, as the trains are all electricity powered trains.
“Here the Prime Minster rides bicycles, the Prince rides bicycles; even the Queen rides bicycles and I ride bicycle too; and we all enjoy it.
“In the Netherlands, cycling is a way of life; the mere fact that you see a man riding a bicycle does not mean he is poor.
“It also takes a lot of pressure off the roads as well,’’ she added.
Oheme bemoaned the fact that road transportation was the in-thing in Nigeria, as the country’s railways was now in a derelict state.
She recalled with nostalgia how she took a train ride from Lagos to Jos in the 1970s and lamented that government and other stakeholders allowed the railways to go into a comatose state.
In the Netherlands, rail transportation is very popular, as trains are readily available. There are also trams and bus networks in and around the major cities, while an extensive railway system connects all the cities.
Besides, there are concentric canals around the cities, especially Amsterdam, the country’s capital, where tourists could make boat trips.
In spite of the unpredictable nature of the country’s weather, the citizens of the Netherlands still ensure that everything in their country works.
The orderliness of the country will surely excite a first-time visitor and official statistics from the Dutch government reveal that not less than 10,000 Nigerians reside in the Netherlands.
Analysts, however, maintain that Nigeria stands to gain a lot by adopting the Dutch patterns of development.
They insist that Nigeria should make tangible efforts to take a cue from the Dutch development patterns if she is truly serious about its ambition to transform into one of the world’s 20 largest economies by the year 2020.
Sombo writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)