Monday's train crash in Belgium is the major story in many of this morning's papers, although the first televised local election debate gets quite a lot of coverage as well. Depending on how well the politicians feel they did during the debate that may be either a blessing or a curse.
Dutch train drivers also ignore red lights
Under a photograph of a rescue worker carrying a child away from the wreckage of Monday's train crash in Belgium, de Volkskrant writes "the Netherlands: red lights ignored 250 times," adding, "it is possible that an accident similar to the one in Halle could occur in the Netherlands".
The paper says Dutch train drivers ignore or simply fail to see red lights "hundreds of times a year" and it’s purely a question of luck that there have been no fatalities.
Local election debate: the winner is...
Several papers print a photo - the same one - of laughing politicians standing around a large table in a television studio. The first and last major debate in the run-up to the 3 March local elections took place last night and the country's top politicians gathered to score points off each other and win voters in a studio in Hilversum.
Most of the papers agree that right-wing Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders performed well, but that the evening was dominated by Labour Party leader Wouter Bos. AD writes that there was a dip about halfway through when the debate focused on municipal finances; "everybody knew the figures by heart and that led to an avalanche of numbers. Even the audience seemed to be looking for a remote so they could zap to another channel".
Council rewards snowball thugs
"Gouda buys off thugs," screams De Telegraaf, adding, "snowball terrorists rewarded with a party". The populist broadsheet thunders, "Council bribed Moroccan criminals involved in snowball incident with a party to keep them off the streets over New Year's Eve". Earlier this year, a group of teenagers erected barricades, pelted passers-by with snowballs and then robbed them.
According to VVD councillors in Gouda, the city council gave the youths 2,225 euros to organise a party. VVD Councillor Laura Werger is "furious" because the municipality allocated money without following the proper procedures, adding, "it's ridiculous to reward criminal behaviour".
Gouda council has confirmed that the youths were given money and released a statement saying, "We wanted to prevent an escalation of the situation".
Cops on the road without winter tyres
"Emergency services on the roads without winter tyres," writes AD on its front page. The paper says, "Despite the bitter winter conditions, officers in six of the 26 national forces are using vehicles that are not equipped with winter tyres". The populist tabloid adds that two ambulance services do not have vehicles equipped with "the safest tyres".
Although winter tyres are not mandatory in the Netherlands, the unions are furious; a spokesperson for the CNV union tells the paper, "It is unacceptable to compromise workers' safety. There are special tyres for wintry conditions and they should be utilised. End of story."
Amsterdam to ban beer bike
De Telegraaf writes that Amsterdam politicians want to ban the beer bike - a pedal-driven bar that is extremely popular with tourists and bachelor parties - as there have been a number of accidents involving the "drink vehicle". However, there appears to be some confusion as to who is responsible for issuing licences for the rolling bars.
The populist paper writes, "it's deathly cold outside but the controversial beer bike is as popular as ever".
The owner of one company running a bar-on-wheels tells the paper, "I rent out the beer bike about four times a week. It doesn't matter what the weather is like, people still want to rent it when it's minus four degrees outside. But I think I'm doing something illegal because the council is being really difficult about the licence".
Earlier this year, the city tried to ban the vehicle, but eventually gave up and said individual councils were responsible for either issuing or denying licences. However, the situation is still being investigated and debated and nothing has been decided. In the meantime, cheers!