On 3rd March the documentary “Europa spoort niet” aired on NPO2, the Dutch public state broadcaster’s TV channel. It is in the documentary series Tegenlicht, produced by vpro. You can watch the whole thing (50 mins) with Dutch subtitles here, and there is a version for Youtube edited to be shorter as well:

I was also in Netherlands 6th March for a Tegenlicht Meetup at Pakhuis de Zwijger, and there are similar Meetups in Utrecht (11 March) and Rotterdam (28 March), although I am not going to either of those. But the concept is interesting – to run an event series around the documentary, to allow the audience to come and speak to the producers of the show and the guests in the show. There was also a vpro Gids article sort of setting the scene for the show.

The whole process of getting to the stage that the documentary aired was really interesting.

First, something interesting is happening in this discussion about international rail in Netherlands – I was also a guest in a similar show with Jaap Tielbeke last year (summary here). This discussion is taking place in the mainstream media in Netherlands to a much greater extent than elsewhere.

Second, the way vpro, and especially the lead journalist responsible for the whole thing, Maren Merckx, approached it all was really professional. The sound and camera guys were also excellent to work with – it’s always nice working with people who are top professionals in something that you don’t know. They had a clear idea what they wanted, but I had some room to shape it all as well – I think that makes for an interesting documentary.

Third, Maren asked me if they could use any material I had produced from my #CrossBorderRail project – and I agreed to that. I assumed they would use some nice drone footage from somewhere, but instead they took this video of me ranting in Aachen! It made a good story I suppose, but did not show me in my best light. However I think there is an important learning point here for me too – if you can provide plenty of raw material for a film crew to use, that can probably further help shape what ends up in the documentary.

Fourth, considering pretty much everyone else interviewed worked for the rail industry in some way, I reckon I just about held my own with what I said. I struggle with imposter syndrome in rail matters a bit – here’s this EU guy who’s an outsider who then comments on railways, how dare he! – but I can probably make the complicated points easier to understand, to put them in layperson’s terms. Maybe that is something I can pursue more.

Fifth, if I have a criticism of the documentary it is that it is a diagnosis of the problems, but leaves the viewer thinking “OK, that’s all a mess, but what are we supposed to do about all of that now?” – maybe it is not a documentary film maker’s job to answer that question. And given the complexity of the matters at hand, perhaps even a series of films might make sense? But who I wonder would be ready to go to those lengths, and would something more detailed even get an adequate audience?

So overall I am happy – it was an interesting project, a good outcome, and the feedback about the documentary has been generally positive. Do watch it, and let me know what you think!


  1. As a Dutch person, I watched this when a friend alerted me to it, it was great! Some of the things I see as well when I go to another country (Interrail is great), and I’ve spent quite some time being annoyed about the French-Spanish border especially 🙂

  2. I loved it. And I do think it’s a journalist’s job to shine a light on possible solutions. There is even a term for that it’s called positive journalism. So, lacking any solutions in this documentary, would you like to point me in the right direction? Any hints toward solutions?
    Also: I’m traveling to south west Portugal by train from The Netherlands in April / May. My aim is to make a stop in Bilbao as well 😀 This is going to be challenging to do by train. Your site has been helpful pointing out interrail tips and trics.

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