Since 2005, ProRail is responsible for the management of the entire Dutch railroad network. Outsourcing maintenance, safety and railroad extensions to private companies is ProRail’s key task. The state-owned company should do this ethically, from safety to sustainability. This report will look into decisions made by ProRail, to determine how well the company is doing ethically ten years after its founding. SafetyThe most relevant ethical area for ProRail is safety. The network must be built and maintained safe, to guarantee a safe trip for more than a million travelers each day. However, ProRail seems to prefer continuous service to long term safety. For example, ProRail was the one to blame when a train derailed near Hilversum, in early 2014 (NOS, 2014). According to Tjibbe Joustra, the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, ProRail focuses too much on fighting urgent interruptions of the service, while general safety is underexposed (Elferink, 2014). An imperfection in the railroad switch that caused the derailment was unnoticed, and similar derailments in England that happened earlier should have raised alarm, but they didn’t (NOS, 2014). But the problem goes deeper.The main cause for the safety problem can be found in the contracts with ProRail’s contractors. Joustra says ProRail hardly sets any requirements if it comes to general safety, and ProRail doesn’t check the maintenance done in this area properly (Elferink, 2014). The contractors are more focused on profit, and only do what ProRail asks them to do, whereas ProRail purely serves the public, and is the one that decides what work will be done. Therefore it’s ProRail’s responsibility to make sure the contractors keep the railroad network safe, and it is unethical to neglect or underexpose safety in any contract, like ProRail is currently doing. ProRail endangers its own customers, by not giving safety top priority.Honesty and fair dealing Secondly, honesty and fair dealing is a problem within ProRail. In 2015, the company was accused of secretly violating the law twice. First of all, in June 2015, PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed (PWC, 2015) that ProRail had secretly extended contracts with four contractors, while they were not allowed to do so. This was done without informing the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, ProRail´s only shareholder, and without informing its own board of directors (Volkskrant, 2015) (TPO, 2015). Besides hiding information, ProRail might have violated the Public Procurement Act, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC, 2015, p7). Both signing and hiding the contract are, without a doubt, very unethical decisions. The second scandal happened three months later, when Haarlems Dagblad reported (Haarlems Dagblad, 2015) ProRail had plans to by-pass the Public Procurement Act, and to deviate from its own strict internal regulations, according to leaked minutes from ProRail’s board meeting (Haarlems Dagblad, 2015) (Lambert, 2015). However, the State Secretary of Infrastructure and the Environment informed the parliament that ProRail guaranteed her that it never intended to violate the Public Procurement Act, and that deviating from strict internal regulations is legal (Mansveld, 2015). ProRail got away with this case, nevertheless unethical things had happened. Firstly, ignoring internal regulations is undesirable as they are made to guarantee safety and fairness, and it might set a bad precedent. Secondly, confidential minutes were leaked, showing somebody high up is not trustworthy. Finally, trying to by-pass the Public Procurement Act is illegal, and therefore definitely unethical, even though ProRail claims it never intended to do so. Respect The third ethical problem relates to the following example: ProRail’s CEO Pier Eringa shows a lack of respect towards many people, with a statement he made in June 2015. Eringa said that when he receives a message about a suicide on the railway, he wishes the person had chosen a less busy moment (NOS, 2015). His statement was part of a longer argument about safety and delays on the network, but this example might have gone too far. A storm of angry reactions followed (NOS, 2015). Train drivers and ticket collectors said Eringa should talk with them about the horrific experiences they had before making such statements, and relatives of those who committed suicide made clear that busy train traffic is probably not the biggest concern of suicidal people (SpoorPro, 2015). Although Eringa responded saying he never intended to hurt someone (RTL Nieuws, 2015), his remark is a CEO unworthy, and demonstrates a lack of empathy. Eringa has been very unethical, hurting so many people by using the wrong formulation of an example, for what might have been a valid argument. Improvements Clearly, there are many thing that need rectification to make ProRail a better, more ethical company. First and most important of all, its safety problem. As said earlier, ProRail seems to prefer continuous service to long term safety. So far, this has not led to any casualties or an accumulation of accidents, but in a rich and developed country as the Netherlands, one accident is already too much. The worst case scenario, where ProRail is (partly) responsible for casualties, could lead to the loss of jobs and reputation for those that are responsible, and could affect the popularity of train travel, and thereby ProRail’s revenue. Therefore, ProRail should change its priorities and put safety on top. In practice, safety should get more attention in contracts with all ProRail’s contractors, and ProRail should carry out more safety checks on all parts of the network. Only then, accidents in the long term can be prevented.The second most important issue is ProRail’s tendency to violate the Public Procurement Act. It almost happened twice last year, something that is a serious affair for any company, but even worse for a company that is state-owned. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment should get a better grip on the company to make sure such things will not happen again. The State Secretary of Infrastructure and the Environment barely survived some tough debates about ProRail (De Vries, 2015), and new violation of the law might mean the end of her career at the Ministry. But besides the Ministry taking action, ProRail should take responsibility as well, to prevent legal actions and the loss of jobs. ProRail’s monopoly position means the company can’t lose any market share, but it also means it’s the only company who can do the job, so it must do it right, or people will be fired. The third most unethical aspect of ProRail concerns secrecy. Keeping information on important decisions hidden for shareholders and the board of directors creates an atmosphere of distrust and lies, which is highly undesirable for any company. It can cause the opposite of hiding public information, which is leaking secret information. This happened last year, as said earlier in this report, and could be very damaging to the company. Therefore, ProRail’s management should not hide information again. The problem isn’t very complicated, neither is the solution. The responsibility lies with ProRail, that should make sure an atmosphere of honesty and trust is created within the entire company.Causes The main reason such unethical decisions are made, is the way ProRail has to deal with both government and the free market. ProRail is in the middle, mainly being funded by the state, but outsourcing the maintenance work on an open market of contractors. It has to find a balance between the interests of both sides, making difficult decisions that satisfy everybody’s needs. Only an open atmosphere of deliberation and cooperation between ProRail and the Ministry, and between ProRail and the contractors, could prevent more unethical decisions. This could slow down the decision process a little bit, but will also result in more well-considered decisions that everybody agrees with. Conclusion ProRail has had a bad year if it comes to ethics. Wrong interests, lies and unlawful actions were too often linked directly to ProRail. However, the way to improvement is easy, if ProRail takes responsibility. An atmosphere of trust, deliberation and honesty could stop the hiding and leaking of information, and will lead to better and more widely supported decisions. In the long term, this will improve ProRail’s reputation, prevent people from being sacked and might eventually make the difference between life and death on the railroad network.