Netherlands - General Information
National Railway System
National Railway Operator
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (https://www.ns.nl/en NS]) is the principal passenger carrier, which operates through various subsidiary companies, including:
- NS Reizigers - Domestic passenger services
- NS International - International passenger services.
Thalys services to the Netherlands are operated by a stand-alone company owned by SNCF (62%), SNCB/NMBS (28%) and DB (10%); NS is not a partner.
There is no longer a national freight operator. The former NS freight operation has been sold and is a subsidiary of DB Schenker (see below). Open access freight operators have a considerable market share. Some of the more important freight operators currently seen on Netherlands tracks are DB Schenker Rail Nederland, ACTS Nederland, ERS Railways, Rotterdam Rail Feeding and Captrain Benelux (SNCF).
Numeric 84; alpha NL
As of 14 December 2014, every station should be served twice an hour.
- PC: Travel Information.
- Smartphone: m.ns.nl/planner.action?lang=en.
- Iphone application: Reisplanner.
- Android application: Reisplanner
- Windows application: Treinplanner
Download dienstregeling > Voor een compleet overzicht > Trajectnummers nn t/m nn (where nn represents the range of table numbers. Timetable PDF's are available only in the Dutch version.
Treinreiziger offers a paper Spoorboekje for 2018-2019. NS discontinued paper timetables after the 2009-2010 edition.
Real Time Train Information
- European Railway Atlas: France & Benelux by M.G. Ball (4 April 2016) ISBN: 978-0-9932457-6-3
- European Railway Atlas by M.G. Ball (1 May 2016) ISBN 978-0-9932457-8-7
- NS provides a map with all train services and their frequencies.
- NS provides a map with all passenger lines and their operators according to timetable numbers.
- Prorail provides a detailed geographical map.
- Sporenplan has a series of on-line maps and schematic track diagrams. Click on "Sporenplannen" on the left hand side for a map showing the countries covered.
- Thorsten Büker's Map of Benelux network Although this remains on-line, the Büker maps are no longer being maintained. Last updated November 2011.
All stations are equipped with ticket machines which all accept debit and credit cards (V PAY, Maestro, Mastercard, Visa and American Express). However, some foreign Visa debit cards are not accepted. Some machines accept coins as well. All machines offer domestic tickets and some provide international tickets to Belgium, and a selection of destinations in Germany. All tickets contain a chip to validate your ticket. Booking offices at small stations have almost all been closed. A surcharge is payable at booking offices when buying a ticket which is available from a ticket machine.
The smart card OV Chipkaart is the normal ticket on public transport and can be bought at any ticket machine. Machines that add value to an OV Chipkaart accept debit cards issued outside the Netherlands. However, only a few machines (such as at some tobacconists) accept credit cards. Paper tickets continue to be issued from machines and booking offices for rail journeys.
Information on tickets and passes can be found on the NS Individual tickets & supplements page. A supplement is required to travel on the HSL between Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport unless the passenger has a valid international ticket (which includes Interrail). The supplement can be purchased from vending machines; there are red validation machines for such supplements on the platforms.
Note: ALL tickets from machines MUST be touched in and out with ALL operators used in the correct order, when changing operators en-route. Travellers may be fined if they do not do this.
NS-Zonetaxi (formerly known as treintaxi) tickets include a taxi from/to the railway station for a fixed fare. The service is available in most mid-size towns, but not in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam. When riding on single or return tickets, trein-taxi tickets should be bought at the departure station. For the return trip by taxi, tickets are best bought in advance, but the taxi driver sells tickets with a small surcharge.
Although more local services are to be franchised over the next few years, a uniform ticketing system, including NS and all franchisees, is being retained.
Special offers: Supermarket chains may offer cheap day tickets from time to time for a limited period. At Amsterdam Schiphol Airport both NS and GVB Amsterdam sell tickets for public transport connections to Amsterdam.NS-Voordeelwinkel has special offers for Eindhoven Airport. Treinreiziger offers news about the Dutch railwaysystem, including the availabillity of discounted tickets.
ProRail owns and manages the NS infrastructure and is responsible for traffic control and capacity allocation, under the authority of the minister of transport. On 1 July 2015 the operation of the Betuweroute was transferred to ProRail and the previous owners, Keyrail, ceased to exist.
Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport, part of the Ministry of Transport, is responsible for safety and rolling stock certification.
The Prorail Website gives access to various NS Network Statement documents.
1500 V dc. New high-speed lines and the Betuwe trunk freight line between Rotterdam and Zevenaar (- Emmerich (Germany)) are electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz; Zevenaar - Emmerich was converted to 25 kV in 2016 so that freight trains have to change voltage only once. The Hanzelijn is not officially a high-speed line, so is 1500 V dc. Large-scale conversion to 25 kV 50 Hz in the long term was envisaged but this was abandoned in the late 1990s as too expensive. In 2014 Prorail started a feasibility study into upgrading to 3000 V dc.
Rule of the road
Right, but most lines are reversibly signalled. The following lines have left-hand running:
- the high speed line from Rotterdam Lombardijen (where there is a flying crossover) to the Belgian border
- the fast lines between Utrecht Centraal and Bilthoven; there is a flying crossover west of Bilthoven
- from Roosendaal to the Belgian border
- from Maastricht to the Belgian border
There are connections between the high speed line and the old line to Breda where they run parallel south of Lage Zwaluwe. The two southbound lines are adjacent, and linked by a long crossover. The connection between the northbound lines crosses over all four tracks on a flyover.
Wikipedia gives distances for all lines in the Netherlands. Click on the line wanted, and on the right distances for stations are given. Sporeneplan provides an alternative source. Click on the line wanted to reach a schematic line plan, alongside which distances for stations (named in abbreviated code) are given. Neither is an official page and can be out of date. If any user can point to an official source for distance information the compilers would be glad to hear.
Private operators have franchises to work a number of local passenger services over NS lines, thus:
- Arriva Nederland: Leeuwarden - Harlingen, Leeuwarden - Stavoren, Leeuwarden - Groningen, Groningen - Roodeschool/Eemshaven/Delfzijl, Groningen - Veendam/Bad Nieuweschans - Leer (D), Apeldoorn - Zutphen, Zutphen - Winterswijk, Winterswijk - Arnhem, Arnhem - Tiel, Nijmegen - Venlo - Roermond - Maastricht/Heerlen, Luik (B) - Maastricht - Heerlen - Kerkrade/Aachen (D).
- Abellio (part of NS): Gouda - Alphen aan den Rijn, Arnhem - Emmerich (D).
- Blauwnet (Arriva/Keolis/Syntus): Enschede - Almelo - Mariënberg, Kampen - Zwolle - Emmen, Zutphen - Hengelo - Oldenzaal.
- Breng: Doetinchem - Arnhem.
- Q-Buzz (R-Net): Dordrecht - Geldermalsen
- Valleilijn (Connexxion): Amersfoort - Ede-Wageningen.
In addition next cross border services are operated: Keolis: Oldenzaal - Bielefeld(D), DB Regio: Enschede - Gronau - Münster / Dortmund Abellio: Arnhem - Düsseldorf (RE19) Regiobahn: Venlo - Düsseldorf - Hamm (RE13)(D), NMBS: local services Roosendaal - Antwerpen (B)
The German based Bentheimer Eisenbahn owns and operates its trunk line from Bentheim to the border at Laarwald and a further 2 km on to Coevorden. The line is freight only; there has never been any significant border crossing passenger traffic, but freight has regained importance in recent times. Coevorden effectively serves as a German rail bridgehead into the Netherlands, traffic mainly consisting of containers that are subsequently road-hauled into the northern provinces.
A list of Tourist & Museum Railways and Tramways in English is available on the Historisch Railvervoer Nederland (HRN) website.
Rail cycling is possible on the following sections of line:
Track plans for all metro systems in the Netherlands are available on the Gleisplanweb site.
Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Utrecht.
Track plans for all tram systems in the Netherlands are available on the Gleisplanweb site.
Recent and future changes
Infrastructure manager ProRail warned in August 2018 that the main line network is ‘almost full’. ProRail said it was ‘running up against the limits’ of its 7 300 track-km network, pointing out that traffic had grown from 129 million train-km in 2004 to 165 million train-km planned for 2019. It added that there would be ‘little point’ in trying to add more infrastructure as there was ‘no room for that’ across the country.
Particular challenges include a marked increase in freight traffic, with 8% more trains expected to run next year compared to this. A major constraint is the amount of stabling and depot space around the network; ProRail says that this shortage at ‘several key locations’ must be ‘quickly addressed’. It expects to begin offering stabling and shunting ‘as a service’ in future in an attempt to optimise use of the facilities available.
Some capacity relief will be provided by the launch of more IC Direct inter-city passenger services over the HSL-Zuid high speed line, which ProRail says will release paths on the conventional network for local trains. Infrastructure work between Amsterdam and Utrecht will also allow ICE services into Germany to be accelerated by 3 min, releasing some capacity.
Looking ahead, the infrastructure manager believes that more capacity can be squeezed out through the deployment of intelligent timetabling tools, particularly aimed at freight trains which often require short notice paths or changes to booked workings. From 2020, the national working timetable will be specified to the nearest 6 sec rather than whole minutes, which ProRail believes will ‘help it better deliver the public timetable’.
Extensive works are under way or recently completed to increase line capacity. These include realignment and quadrupling of lines and construction of flyovers at junctions. Electrification of Nijmegen - Venlo should be completed by 2020.
The extension of RET Metro Line B from Hoek van Holland Haven to a new Hoek van Holland Strand terminus 1.6 km beyond the previous one is delayed until 2022. Check the project website for further information.
On 10 October 2017, the coalition government agreed plans to reopen Weert - Hamont, with co-financing from regional authorities, following the reopening of Neerpelt - Hamont by SNCB. On 9 November the governments concluded an agreement to electrify the line.
The "Iron Rhine" freight line between Roermond and Dalheim (Germany) is planned to reopened for traffic between Antwerpen and the Ruhr. However this has been delayed by a dispute between the Dutch and Belgian governments, which has gone to arbitration.
The (Rotterdam -) Schiedam Centrum - Hoek van Holland Hoekse Lijn line closed to passengers as an NS line on 1 April 2017 and reopened as RET Metro line B between Nesselande and Hoek van Holland Haven on 30 September 2019, thus bringing a new connection into use between Schiedam Centrum metro station and Schiedam Nieuwland. The former passenger connection between the Metro and the ProRail/NS network is retained for freight.
Landgraaf - Herzogenrath (Germany) has been electrified, with Arriva EMUs running between Aachen Hbf and Maastricht from 27 December 2018. The planned through Arriva service between Aachen and Liège has been delayed and until further notice NMBS continue to operate a separate train service between Maastricht and Liège.
The new station of Lansingerland-Zoetermeer on the NS Den Haag to Gouda line opened on 9 December 2018 and the extension to tram line 4 (RandstadRail4) from Zoetermeer Javalaan to the new station opened on 19 May 2019.
The 'Intercity Direct' service between Amsterdam and Brussel/Bruxelles (the successor to the former Benelux service) was diverted via the HSL Zuid and Breda [reverse] from 9 April 2018, thus opening for passenger traffic the curve southwards from Breda towards the Belgian border. 4 times a day the Benelux service starts/terminates at Den Haag HS.
Work to adapt Rotterdam Centraal station to accommodate Eurostar services (principally security screening) was completed on 26 March 2018.
The ca 700 m branch to the existing Roodeschool terminus closed 5 January 2018. The new station on the currently freight only Eemshaven branch opened 8 January 2018. Passenger services were extended to Eemshaven on 28 March 2018, using a newly built short branch built to the Borkum ferry passenger terminal.
Many trains worked by multiple units split en route to serve more than one destination. External displays may show the destination of each portion; newer train sets are provided with internal displays as well. The number of each unit is displayed prominently in each carriage and when trains divide public address announcements usually refer to these to inform passengers where each unit is going.
The freight line to Terneuzen is accessible only from Gent in Belgium.
NS has ordered 206 EMU 'Sprinters' for local services at CAF Civity (serving the west of the Netherlands) and 58 Flirts at Stadler (serving the south-east of the Netherlands). NS has ordered 79 EMU 'Intercity New Generation' at Alstom, based on Coradia platform for use on the HSL by 2021. Two proto sets are being provided for services to Brussels.
Most stations have free internet access via KPN hotspots. NS Intercity trains have free internet by 'Wifi in de trein' provided by T-mobile, other operators like Arriva and Veolia offer free wifi in their trains. The Intericty Direct coaches using the HSL and Beneluxservice Amsterdam-Brussels v.v. are not provided with wifi.