Prioritising the traveller, the Dutch railway network is a good way to cross the country. Practically everywhere is reachable by train, having a network of 3,223 kilometres (2,003 miles) of track. The Dutch network is a well-maintained and well-travelled commuter network with a few excellent international high speed sections. One should be aware that night trains and related services are very limited in terms of time and general availability.
A free travel pass is available to students in the country. Some of the Dutch trains have explicit silent sections which are much appreciated by many. Beyond that, the Dutch have eradicated paper tickets fully, using the OV-chipkaart, often shortened to OV-chip or chipkaart, instead. The card either holds data of the route you're travelling (disposable card) or it holds credit or a travel product (personal and anonymous card). The OV-chipkaart (which also works in buses, trolleybuses, trams and metros) is what sets Dutch public transit apart from that of other countries.
This distinction is a recent development, with network maintainer ProRail improving the network, adding and revamping stations during the first quarter of the 21st century. Historically though, the Dutch were late in starting a rail network, having horse-drawn barges on their extensive inland waterways as a perfectly fine alternative for both cargo and people. After the first line proved successful, the 19th century saw a jump to the 'new' mode of transport, only to be too enthusiastic about railways and see many lines fall into disuse or be completely demolished in the 20th century.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Dutch Railways) lost its monopoly on rail travel in the 1990s, allowing more domestic and foreign railway operators to join the fun. The network can be crowded, but trains are still a great way to see the country.
The Dutch rail network connects virtually all notable destinations from Amsterdam to Zoetermeer and Zevenaar to Assen. There are roughly as many stations as there are municipalities in the country (about 400). The entire network consists of 6,830 kilometres (4,240 miles) of track, three quarters of which is electrified. The largest city without any means of rail-bound public transport is Oosterhout (North-Brabant), with some 44,000 citizens. The biggest region that cannot be reached by rail is Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (Zeeland), which borders Belgium, but would be fully detached from the rest of the Netherlands were it not for a single road tunnel crossing underneath the Western Scheldt estuary.
Passenger rail companies
- Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) operates nearly all intercity trains and many regional and commuter services (sprinter trains).
- Arriva operates trains on the Noordelijke Nevelijnen (Northern lines, Groningen and Friesland), Drechtsteden, Alblasserwaard, Vijfherenlanden-region (Zuid-Holland), Vechtdallijnen (Vechtdal lines, Overijssel), Achterhoek-Rivierenland region (Gelderland) and Limburg.
- Breng most notably focused on bus and trolleybus connections in Arnhem and Nijmegen, Breng only runs a single train service in the Achterhoek: Arnhem — Doetinchem, creating a quarter-hourly service to Doetinchem in cooperation with Arriva, which has its trains turn around at Winterswijk instead of Doetinchem.
- Connexxion operates trains on the Valleilijnen (Valley lines, Barneveld — Amersfoort — Ede-Wageningen).
- Keolis though its name is hardly seen. Keolis, formerly known as Syntus, runs trains as Twents in Twente on the Zutphen — Hengelo — Oldenzaal line.
- R-Net operated by NS runs the concession for the Gouda — Alphen aan den Rijn line. R-Net is a sort of quality label for frequent public transport within the Randstad area.
- R-Net operated by Qbuzz started running trains on the MerwedeLingeLijn (Dordrecht — Geldermalsen) in early December 2018. This is the first rail service operated by Qbuzz, which, as the name implies, has thus far only serviced buses and trams, the latter in a joint venture with bus operator HTM.
- Blauwnet is not so much an operator as it is a joint venture. Arriva and Keolis share lines in Overijssel and Drenthe and have agreed to run these trains in a somewhat more neutral livery, namely the blue livery of Blauwnet (Blue-net). The lines included are four services from Zwolle to Emmen (Arriva), Enschede, Kampen and Oldenzaal (Keolis), Almelo — Hardenberg (Arriva) and Zutphen — Oldenzaal. Between Almelo, Hengelo and Enschede, Blauwnet runs alongside NS. On those journeys, Blauwnet charges up to €0.06 more than NS, so with frequent journeys between these cities, perhaps opt for NS instead.
Rail transport did not catch on in the Netherlands until 1839. There were many plans to connect the country by rail, but unlike most European countries, the Netherlands didn't need a rail network. A perfectly workable system of horse-drawn barges (trekschuiten) was already in place, using the country's famous canal network. Shipping companies also lobbied against railways, causing attempts to raise funds for railways to fail dramatically.
The most viable line was one proposed by W.A. Blake, who wanted to connect Amsterdam to Cologne (Germany) via Arnhem. His fundraising efforts failed, but one of his employees, W.C. Brade, continued the plans, changing the route to connect the capital to Rotterdam, with a test stretch running to Haarlem to test economic viability. Wealthy investors began to favour a connection between the ports of the Netherlands, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. King William supported the plans because he was reluctant to let his country fall behind its neighbours which were all working on their first railways.
With the King's support, construction of the railway started. However, the Netherlands lacked engineers and had to import them, mainly from England. Even with these engineers, some odd choices were made. The railway that had to connect to foreign railways was built on a 1,945 mm (76.6 in) broad gauge instead of the standard gauge that the neighbours used, making the tracks incompatible until they were converted.
On September 20, 1839, a train pulled by De Arend ('The Eagle') with De Snelheid ('The Speed') as backup, left Amsterdam for Haarlem and arrived without any major problems 30 minutes later, covering a distance of 16 km (10 miles). Commercial transport on the line commenced four days later.
Expansion and boom
Most railways were built on popular demand, and building only commenced once individuals had raised the funds. Nothing was centralised. By 1850 several main railways were constructed, yet the Netherlands was significantly behind its neighbours. Moreover, the major rivers of the country hadn't yet been bridged, creating a major divide between the Netherlands above the Rhine and the Netherlands below the Rhine. The networks that had come to exist were badly linked if they were linked at all. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the main railway hubs at the time, competing companies had different stations, both on opposite edges of the towns.
In 1860 the Nederlandsche Centraal-Spoorweg-Maatschappij (NCS) constructed a line connecting Utrecht to Kampen via Amersfoort and Zwolle. In 1869 Utrecht became connected to Eindhoven via 's Hertogenbosch and two years later Lage Zwaluwe was connected to Dordrecht, finally spanning across the rivers Meuse and Waal (Rhine delta). The Oosterspoorweg (Eastern railway) was constructed partly in 1874 and partly in 1876, connecting Amsterdam to Zutphen.
By 1860 the government of the Netherlands finally realised that railways might be of national importance, creating the Spoorwegwet (Railway law), meaning that the government finally started funding and exploiting railways. The law proposed ten railways, labelled A through K, that would connect the Netherlands. These railways would not yet be used by a government-owned company, but instead by the National Railways (Staatsspoorwegen or SS). These lines were:
The SS had a rivalry with the HSM (Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij), both of which tried their best to take as many passengers away from the other by siding with third parties, taking over their railways or using their shipping services to get passengers across a river that couldn't be crossed by using their railway.
The Staatslijnen weren't enough to cover the entire country, with the east being particularly left out. Many local railways (lokaalspoorwegen) and tramways were built by non-governmental organisations started by individuals, often traders or investors. The tramways didn't have to install signals, whereas the railways were required to. The downside of the tramways was that they had to deal with speed limits as they often used pre-existing roads.
Connections to neighbouring countries were also started by individuals. Staatslijn B already connected to Germany near Enschede. Additionally, the line between Turnhout (Belgium) and Tilburg was built by Grand Central Belge in 1867 and Boxtel was connected to Wesel (Germany) in 1878 by the Noord-Brabantsch-Duitsche Spoorweg-Maatschappij (North-Brabantic-German Railway Company).
The rivalry on the railways led to many mergers. A single state-owned railway company, however, never came into being. The SS and HSM were the main winners of the rivalry. They joined forces in August of 1937, forming the Nederlandsche Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways), of which the state became the owner. Most railways were then operated by the NS, excluding several border-crossing and local railways. This remained the case for some sixty years, until 1995.
During the 1900s many lines were electrified, the first of which was the 1908 Hofpleinlijn (Rotterdam - Scheveningen). The line was electrified with 10,000 volts of alternating current. In the 1920s the ZHESM, which owned the line, developed 1500 V direct voltage, which was used first on the Oude Lijn (Old Line; Amsterdam - Rotterdam) in 1924. The 1500 DC voltage became the standard electrification for the Netherlands and is used to this day on almost all electrified lines.
With road traffic on the rise, many local railways were no longer profitable. Most of them were abandoned in the 1930s and after the second world war.
By 1934 the first diesel train, the Mat '34, had been put into service. The Mat '34 was also the first streamlined train design, which would be used on all newly-built electric trains a year later. Steam locomotives were used less and less after the second world war. The last steam train in regular service ran on January 7, 1958. In 1956 the class system in trains was changed across Europe. Third class became second class, second class became first class and the (rarely used) first class was abolished.
Reorganisation and rivals
The 1990s brought reorganisations to the Nederlandse Spoorwegen, which meant a divide in maintaining and using the railways. The running of the railways stayed with NS, and the maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure was shifted over to the newly formed ProRail. NS was divided into NS Reizigers for passenger service and NS Cargo for transport of goods. Local concessions were put in place to open up the market to other private companies, and end the monopoly of NS.
The first competition came in 1996, when Lovers Rail started running trains from Haarlem to Amsterdam, which turned out to be impractical for people in IJmuiden and Lisse, as well as visitors to Keukenhof. Lovers Rail ceased operations in 1999.
More successful were the regional lines outside of the Randstad. The first of these was Mariënberg - Almelo in 1998, followed by the Northern Lines in Friesland and Groningen in 1999 and 2000. As of 2017, local lines are run by Arriva, Breng, Connexxion and Keolis. Several lines in the Randstad are planned to be converted into metro lines around 2020 in order to improve public transit there. While many of the "private" railways bidding on rail franchises in the Netherlands are actually daughter companies of the state railways of other countries, NS itself has started bidding on (and winning) contracts for rail service abroad under the brand of their daughter company Abellio.
Classes of travel
The Dutch classes of travel follow the European standard, which is divided into two classes:
- Tweede Klas (second class), indicated on carriages with a simple 2, offers seating of a decent quality which outside of rush hour is perfectly fine. As soon as rush hour starts, expect little space, especially when travelling with loads of luggage. There are almost always overhead storage racks for luggage, but even a simple backpack may prove too big in some situations. Seating is the main problem in second class, aside from overcrowding during rush hour. Intercity trains, most notably the double-deck VIRM and DD-IRM, have silent areas or coaches, which are often quieter and are a de-facto midway solution between first and second class, as overcrowding is not as big of an issue.
- Eerste Klas (first class), indicated by a 1 on the side of carriages offers more space between seats, electrical outlets in most trains, and higher quality seating (though higher quality often refers to leather instead of fabric seats). The first class, however, does have a notable price difference that might very well not be worth it for frequent travel according to most Dutch train travellers. As a result, first class is rarely overcrowded. Booking a seat in advance is only possible on international intercity journeys with, for example, the ICE or Eurostar trains.
Sleeper carriages are not found on regular intercity trains, as travel time is rarely more than 2½ hours, even though the longest travel time within the Netherlands directly from station to station takes around 5½ hours (Delfzijl to Vlissingen (5 hr 38 min in the 2018 schedule)). Sleeping on the train is fine if you have a ticket for where you sit.
The classes share toilets, which are not all wheelchair-accessible. If the train doors have no steps, then there is a high chance that it will have wheelchair-accessible toilets. Regional services rarely have toilets. Larger stations, however, do. The number of toilets, and their accessibility, is due to be improved with the Intercity and Sprinter Nieuwe Generatie. Both classes have freely accessible Wi-Fi, however, the loco-hauled Intercity Direct train has no Wi-Fi at all. The ICNG trainsets that are tested on these services and are set to be rolled out at the end of 2024, do feature Wi-Fi.
Almost all trains have a conductor. Domestic trains have no catering.
The Dutch railway is often mocked for its lack of punctuality and its inefficiency; however that may simply be because Dutch people have a high standard and treat five minutes of delay as a calamity, while the average customer of some other railways would laugh at such an event. Most of that can be explained in cultural difference: the Dutch are very punctual people. Aside from that, trains often seem full if you're not willing to sit beside someone you don't know, which is something the Dutch don't exactly prefer.
Should your train be cancelled, or should your journey be limited in any other way, such as by one of the rare railway strikes, then you are entitled to financial compensation as long as you have obliged to the railway operator's terms and conditions. Refunds and Lost and found objects can be reported and requested via NS's website. Should the problem occur when travelling with another railway operator, then contact them via their website if possible, or give them a call. If neither of these are possible, then head for the nearest info desk (often found at the larger stations with the Centraal suffix).
Regional, local and commuter lines
Railways in the Netherlands have been divided into a larger main concession for the core network, which until 2025 is granted to Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), and into a couple of local concessions, which railway companies bid to operate. These lines are most often non-electrified, running diesel stock, whereas all lines operated by NS are electrified. Of the railway operators active in the Netherlands besides NS, Arriva is by far the biggest. Arriva alone services the following lines:
- Noordelijke Nevelijnen (Northern branch-lines), consisting of Staatslijn B (Harlingen Haven — Bad Nieuweschans), Leeuwarden — Stavoren, Groningen — Roodeschool, Groningen — Delfzijl and Groningen — Veendam. The lines are all serviced using different sorts of Stadler trains. Arriva holds the right to service these lines until the year 2035.
- Vechtdallijnen (Vecht-valley lines), consisting of Zwolle — Emmen (served hourly by a fast and stopping train) and Almelo — Mariënberg — Hardenberg.
- Achterhoek-Rivierenland, made up of the Zutphen — Apeldoorn, Zutphen — Winterswijk, Arnhem — Doetinchem — Winterswijk and Arnhem — Tiel lines. Out of these, the Arnhem — Doetinchem concession is shared with Breng, making it the local line with the highest frequency with four trains per hour in either direction.
- Limburg has five lines, all of which are operated by Arriva. These are S1 (Nijmegen — Roermond), S2 (Maastricht — Roermond), S3 (Sittard — Kerkrade) and S4 and S5 (Maastricht — Heerlen).
Breng services the aforementioned line between Arnhem and Doetinchem creating a quarter-hourly service between both stations in cooperation with Arriva.
Keolis has definitely seen better days, once having lines all over the Eastern Netherlands as Syntus, it now only services only the Zutphen — Hengelo — Oldenzaal line as Twents. All of these trains are LINT 41/H models refurbished in 2013 to have toilets on-board. These trains, constructed between 2001 and 2004, are the oldest trains on the local networks. As of December 2017, Keolis services the Kamperlijn (Kampen — Zwolle) in its own livery and all other trains in neutral Blauwnet livery.
In December 2018, bus company Qbuzz entered the railway market by taking over the MerwedeLingeLine from Arriva.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen runs Sprinter trains on the core network, which is the NS brand for a stoptrein (stopping train), calling at (nearly) every stop along the line. Sprinters are almost always servicing lines that also have Intercity connections, so depending on your departure and/or destination station, you probably are faster by taking an intercity train instead of a sprinter. On regional services, the distinction between a stoptrein (stopping train) and sneltrein (fast train) is used.
Most regional operators use either Stadler or Alstom trains exclusively as both companies have maintenance and repair facilities in the Netherlands. On non-electrified lines you'll find several LINTs, a load of GTWs and a couple of WINKs, on electrified lines you'll see many FLIRTs in addition to a decent amount of GTWs. The only real exception to this rule are the Protos trains operating between Ede-Wageningen and Amersfoort. Almost all the regional operators' trains bear a name of a significant person, location or event related to the region the trains service. Where the Stadler GTWs are named after people, the FLIRT3s after locations and events, while the LINT 41/H trains rarely are named. The names are always marked on the heads of the trains, only visible on the outside. Names vary from artists like Piet Mondriaan and M.C. Escher to assumed spy Mata Hari and from naval explorer Willem Barentsz to garden designer Piet Oudolf.
All Intercity lines are served by NS, and all of these lines are electrified, with the trains served by NS running on energy generated by wind turbines. NS has two categories of Intercity connections (aside from international connections):
The closest thing that the Netherlands has when it comes to high speed rail. As of 2023, there are four services:
- IC 35 / 9200: Amsterdam - Antwerp - Brussels-Zuid/Midi
- 900: Amsterdam - Breda
- 1000: Amsterdam - Rotterdam
All these services run on the HSL-Zuid infrastructure, calling at Schiphol Airport (aside from 9600), The Hague and Rotterdam. There is a supplement required if you travel between Schiphol and Rotterdam with IC-Direct.
There have long been plans to expand the Dutch high speed rail network by two lines, but so far nothing has come of them. HSL-Oost (Amsterdam — Ruhr Area) has been in discussion since the 1990s, with tracks between Amsterdam and Utrecht already being doubled from two to four lines, allowing two of them to be used for higher speeds, connections to Arnhem have been modified, with most modifications to the stations, but east of Arnhem, little has changed. The alternative, the Deltaline, was presented in March 2006, but it never got off the ground either. For now, trains to the Ruhrgebiet are limited to 160 km/h (99 mph).
The Zuiderzeelijn never got beyond the planning phase: whether the line is to operate a Maglev, HSL or Superbus has not been decided. The line has been permanently set aside for ten years now, and will not be dug up for some time yet. In its place, a line from Lelystad connecting to Groningen via Heerenveen (Lelylijn) is being planned for.
Regular Intercity lines
The regular intercity connections are most likely the ones you would use the most. They connect the major cities with one another, skipping the smaller towns along the route. Utrecht is what comes closest to the central hub, due to its location in the center of the country. Only routes served by NS dedicated to domestic rail travel are counted as Intercity lines here, even though Arriva does offer connections that can be defined as Intercity, they refer to them as Sneltrein (fast train). Routes below are listed by their serial number. Do not bother remembering the serial numbers, as these cannot be found at the station or in trains.
- 500: Rotterdam — Groningen via Utrecht and Zwolle using ICM and VIRM stock.
- 600: Rotterdam — Leeuwarden via Utrecht and Zwolle using ICM and VIRM stock.
- 700: Den Haag (The Hague) — Groningen via Schiphol ✈, Lelystad and Zwolle using VIRM stock.
- 800: (Den Helder) — Alkmaar — Maastricht via Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven using VIRM stock. Travelling from Amsterdam, the line becomes a Sprinter (stopping train) service after Alkmaar. Not all trains headed for Alkmaar go further than Alkmaar.
- 900: Amsterdam — Breda via the HSL connection. Additional fee required between Schiphol and Rotterdam.
- 1000: Amsterdam — Rotterdam via the HSL connection. Additional fee required between Schiphol and Rotterdam.
- 1100: Den Haag — Eindhoven via Delft, Rotterdam, Breda and Tilburg.
- 1400: Rotterdam — Utrecht via Den Haag and Amsterdam using ICM and VIRM stock.
- 1500: Amsterdam — Amersfoort (— Deventer) via Amsterdam using ICM, DDZ and VIRM stock. Trains headed for Deventer from Amersfoort are less frequent.
- 1600: Schiphol ✈ — Enschede via Amersfoort and Deventer using ICMm stock.
- 1700: Den Haag — Enschede via Utrecht, Amersfoort and Deventer using VIRM stock.
- 1800: Den Haag — Leeuwarden via Schiphol, Almere and Zwolle.
- 2000: Den Haag — Utrecht using DDZ and VIRM stock.
- 2100: Amsterdam — Den Haag via Haarlem and Leiden using VIRM stock.
- 2200: Amsterdam — Vlissingen via Leiden and Den Haag HS using VIRM stock.
- 2400: Lelystad — Dordrecht via Amsterdam, Schiphol ✈, Leiden, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Roosendaal and Vlissingen using VIRM stock.
- 2600: Almere — Amsterdam
- 2800: Rotterdam — Utrecht using VIRM stock.
- 2900: Enkhuizen — Maastricht via Hoorn, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven.
- 3000: Den Helder — Nijmegen via Amsterdam, Utrecht and Arnhem using VIRM stock.
- 3100: Schiphol ✈ — Nijmegen via Utrecht and Arnhem using VIRM stock.
- 3200: Arnhem — Rotterdam via Utrecht, Amsterdam and Schiphol ✈. Forms a 10-minute service with other trains between Arnhem and Amsterdam, and Leiden and Schiphol.
- 3300: Leiden — Hoorn via Schiphol ✈ and Purmerend.
- 3500: Schiphol ✈ — Venlo via Utrecht and Eindhoven using ICM stock.
- 3600: Zwolle — Roosendaal via Deventer, Arnhem, Nijmegen, 's Hertogenbosch and Breda using DDZ and VIRM stock.
- 3700: Dordrecht — Venlo via Den Haag, Schiphol ✈, Utrecht and Eindhoven, only during nights and Sundays, forming a 15-minute service between Dordrecht and Leiden.
- 3900: Enkhuizen — Heerlen via Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven.
- 4500: Amsterdam — Enkhuizen.
- 8800: Utrecht — Leiden via Woerden and Alphen aan de Rijn using DDZ and VIRM stock.
- 11600: Schiphol ✈ — Amersfoort.
- 11700: Amersfoort — Den Haag.
- 12200: Vlissingen — Roosendaal.
- 12600: Groningen — Amsterdam via Lelystad.
- 13500: Eindhoven — Venlo via Helmond, only in service at the beginning and end of the day instead of series 3500.
- 13900: Eindhoven — Heerlen, peak hour train supporting series 3900 during Fridays and weekends.
- 32600: Groningen — Schiphol ✈ via Lelystad, night service operated by Arriva, Friday nights only.
- 32700: Maastricht — Schiphol ✈ via 's-Hertogenbosch, night service operated by Arriva, Friday nights only.
The most infamous intercity line of the Netherlands has to be the HSL-Zuid, running between Amsterdam and Brussels, which were to be served by newly built V250 'Fyra' trains, nicknamed the Kruimeldief (named after a type of small handheld vacuum cleaner with no proper English name, as the train's nose resembled one). The trains turned out to be poorly constructed, making the news several times too many as train after train failed to show up to platforms, and other technical difficulties caused many delays on other parts of the Dutch and Belgian networks. These problems were labelled as a consequence of new materials, but after the trains had been in service for over a month, no improvements were to be seen. On January 13, 2013, half of the scheduled trains were cancelled, and the other half suffered average delays of an hour. Four days later, 85% of the 'Fyra' trains weren't running. One of the trains that did work that day had a plate on its underside come off after it was damaged by frost while the train was at high speed. This incident was the final nail in the V250's coffin; Belgium banned the Fyra from running on its HSL network. The Fyra has since been 'temporarily' replaced by regular intercity trains, which up to this day still run.
Regardless of the Fyra-debacle, as the situation around the Fyra is known as in the Netherlands, the Netherlands still have international intercity lines, all of which are operated by NS International, a subdivision of Nederlandse Spoorwegen. These are:
- ICE 43: Amsterdam — Basel calling at Utrecht, Arnhem, Oberhausen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Bielefeld, Gütersloh, Hamm, Hagen, Wuppertal, Cologne, Bonn, Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Offenburg and Freiburg im Breisgau. Trains run only once per day, departing from Amsterdam at 8:08.
- IC 77: Amsterdam — Berlin calling at Amersfoort, Deventer, Hengelo, Bad Bentheim, Rheine, Osnabrück and Hanover, running every two hours.
- ICE 78: Amsterdam — Frankfurt am Main calling at all stops listed for the ICE 43 up to and including Frankfurt.
- IC 35: Amsterdam — Brussels calling at Schiphol ✈, The Hague, Rotterdam, Breda, Antwerp and Mechelen.
- Eurostar 9100: Amsterdam — London St. Pancras International calling at Rotterdam, Brussels and Lille.
- Eurostar Red 9300: Amsterdam — Brussels calling at Schiphol ✈, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels, multiple times per day. This service is extended to Paris once per day.
- Eurostar Red 9900: Amsterdam — Lille calling at Schiphol ✈, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels. Leaving once or twice per day.
These tickets can be purchased through NS International. After purchase, you get the option to export the tickets into the NS International App, available on Android and iOS, or download them as a PDF file, which you can then print out. Note that the NS International app is not the same as the NS Reisplanner. One is an app owned and maintained by NS Reizigers and the other by NS International, two divisions of the same company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen. Tickets for IC(E) can also be bought through Deutsche Bahn, tickets for Eurostar can be booked with that company. All three have early bird offers that can be considerably cheaper than regular fares, which gets you from Amsterdam to Brussels or Antwerp for €29, Paris and Berlin for under €40 and London for €59. OV-chipkaarts and other NS passes can be used on domestic ICE and IC Brussels segments but an additional €2.40 supplement is required for journeys on the former; such fares are not valid on Eurostar which requires reservations/advance booking.
Other lines to neighbouring countries are stopping trains, connecting to Germany (GER) and Belgium (B):
- S-32: Roosendaal — Puurs/Lokeren (B) via Antwerp. Connects to Lokeren only on weekends.
- S-43: Maastricht — Hasselt (B) via Liège-Guillemins. Terminates at Liège-Guillemins during weekends.
- RE 13: Venlo — Hamm (GER) calling at Mönchengladbach, Neuss, Düsseldorf, Wuppertal and Hagen.
- RE 18: Maastricht — Aachen Hbf (GER) via Landgraaf, with a separate service going no further than Heerlen.
- This service is planned to be extended to Liège-Guillemins by early 2024.
- RE 19: Arnhem — Düsseldorf (GER) via Emmerich am Rhein, Oberhausen and Duisburg.
- RB 51: Enschede — Dortmund (GER).
- RB 57: Groningen — Leer (GER) via Bad Nieuweschans (connects from Weener to Leer via a bus connection until 2024 or later).
- RB 61: Hengelo — Bielefeld (GER) via Enschede, Bad Bentheim, Rheine and Osnabrück
- RB 64: Enschede — Münster (GER).
Trains in the Netherlands are limited to no more than 160 km/h (99 mph) with the exception of the HSL-Zuid line which is capable of supporting trains travelling at 300 km/h (190 mph). Eurostar services are the only services capable of reaching that speed now. The Intercity Direct can travel up to 200 km/h (120 mph) using the Intercity Nieuwe Generatie stock.
In the 2020s, night trains are returning to the Netherlands. Most trains depart from Amsterdam Centraal. Note that these services are always exempt from travel passes such as Interrail tickets. The following list of services dates from the start of 2023, with more services coming into operation as the year progresses:
- Amsterdam — Nuremberg — Vienna/Innsbruck (ÖBB NightJet)
- Amsterdam — Basel — Zurich (ÖBB NightJet)
- Introduced in December of 2021, this NightJet service does no special merges with other services and simply connects Amsterdam with Switzerland. This service too can be booked through NS International or ÖBB NightJet.
- Amsterdam/Amersfoort/Utrecht — Dresden/Prague (GreenCityTrip / TUI City Express)
- As the name might imply somewhat, this is more of an all-encompassing city trip than an regular night train service, always including the journey to your destination and back to the Netherlands, which are always three days apart. Optionally, you can include three nights of a hotel stay at your destination. Packages available through their own website, TUI and third party sellers.
- Amsterdam — (mostly Austrian) Alps (TUI Ski Express)
- The Hague — Zell am See — Bischofshofen / Innsbruck and Bludenz (Alpen Express)
- Also operates during the skiing season, and connects mostly to Austrian destinations as well. Can be booked through their website, starting at €260 per traveller.
- Brussels — Amsterdam — Berlin — Prague (European Sleeper)
- The Netherlands' latest night train service to start operating, having started in May of 2023 between Brussels and Berlin via Amsterdam. Outbound departures on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Return journeys on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Services to Dresden and Prague are set to start in 2024. Tickets are available through European Sleeper's website.
As of 2023, several new routes are subject to feasibility studies or are more concretely planned, including routes to Bordeaux (SNCF, France), Barcelona and Stockholm (European Sleeper). These may or may not come into operation around 2025 or later.
Planning your trip
The most reliable way of planning your journey is by using the NS Reisplanner, on the homepage of the NS website, or using the NS app on Android or iOS. The app displays everything you need to know about a station and a journey, whether it be the type of train you will be on, how busy said train is, or simply whether there are any shops open at a nearby station where you can have a quick lunch. The app begins in Dutch, but can be changed to English via the Instellingen menu, found under the Meer tab.
The NS Reisplanner and app include trains operated by other companies and can also plan door to door journeys including other modes of public transit, such as bus, tram or metro.
Alternatively you can use 9292.nl or the associated app of the same name.
Avoiding crowded trains
For most trains, the planners have an indicator showing the expected crowd on your train. In general, you can expect crowded trains in the peak hours. These are defined as Monday to Friday, 06:30-09:00 and 16:00-18:30. If possible, avoid the 'hyper' morning peak on weekdays from 07.30-09:00, especially to and between large cities. NS has a top 5 of busiest routes.
Notoriously busy travel days are Kings Day (27 April), especially to events in larger cities such as Amsterdam, as well as whatever day the Zandvoort Grand Prix falls on in a given year. During these events, you may see long queues at ticket machines or service counters so try to purchase your ticket beforehand or make sure you have enough credit on your OV-chipkaart (see 'Buying tickets' below).
Various sites, such as DiscoverHolland.com and NS's own spoordeelwinkel may offer a trip to an attraction you wish to visit, with transport included. These often turn out to be cheaper and more relaxing as you already have the journey planned out and since you have your ticket to the attraction in advance, making the journey just that little bit more care-free. Additionally, you will avoid the crowds at the entrance of the attraction. It is not uncommon to have to spend an hour and a half queuing up to get a ticket on the more popular days.
|Station||One-way Second Class Price (in €)||Number of Tariff Units|
|Den Haag Centraal||13.60||63|
In general, railway tickets on NS and regional railway operators are priced on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) distance basis. There are no peak or off-peak hours for the purpose of computing the standard PAYG price but some subscriptions and unlimited day-tickets are valid only during off-peak hours (i.e. outside 06:30-09:00 and in some cases outside 16:00-18:30 on weekdays). Although the NS app or the 9292 app can provide you with the actual railway fare for the journey you want quickly, if you are curious about how these fares are computed, you first need to understand that it depends on the number of tariff units (tariefeenheden) between your origin and destination. NS train fares start at €2.60 for journeys up to eight tariff units. The fare for each additional tariff unit varies between €0.10 to €0.30 and there is no clear pattern as to when to charge which. But the maximum possible one-way second class fare one could ever pay for domestic NS rail travel is €29.40 (worth 200 tariff units). To compute for the fare between stations, first refer to the tariff unit map to determine the number of tariff units. If there are intermediate stations between your origin and destination stations, just add the number of tariff units you see along the route. Then on the price list (listed here), locate the number of tariff units you just derived (first column) and its corresponding fare (second column). In case there are two or more possible routes to get to your destination using NS, the price will always be based on the route with fewer tariff units regardless of the route you have taken. One-way second class ticket prices between Amsterdam Centraal and selected stations are listed in the table to the right (*not including supplements for travel with certain trains).
With the exception of travel on off-peak early booking tickets and travel with Eurostar or night trains, you are free to travel on any train to get to the points listed on your ticket at any time of the day and reservations are not necessary (the downside of this is you may be forced to stand when trains are crowded). If you decide to travel on an IC-Direct train between Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport station or an ICE train within the country, you will need to purchase a supplement worth €2.90 in addition to the standard PAYG rates.
International services are however priced differently - based less on distance and more on market conditions. Unlike purely domestic rail travel, travelling on international services offers incentives for those who book in advance. Travelling on Eurostar will always require reservations. To purchase tickets involving international travel, proceed to the NS International service point at major railway stations, the NS International website, or the website of the train operator.
- Main article: OV-chipkaart
All public transport in the Netherlands (buses, trams, metros and trains) use contactless smart cards called OV-chipkaart (OV stands for Openbaar Vervoer meaning "Public Transport"), sometimes also called the Public transport chipcard.
Single-use swipe cards are available for NS trains and some local operators, but come at a surcharge. Unless you plan to use the public transport system only incidentally, your best option is to obtain an anonymous OV-chipkaart upon arrival as it's convenient and ultimately cheaper. However, the card must have a minimum stored value, which for NS trains is €20 (unofficially €16) and generally €4 for local public transit operators. The upfront cost (€7.50) of the anonymous OV-chipkaart is non refundable.
The OV-chipkaart comes in three versions:
- Disposable OV-chipkaart is a single-use ticket. It can not be reloaded. Some public transport companies in cities offer 1-, 2- or 3-day tickets offering unlimited use in certain regions.
- Anonymous OV-chipkaart is more the most commonly used smart card. The purchase price is €7.50 (as of 2020) and is non-refundable. These cards are available at ticket offices and vending machines valid up to 5 years. This card is reusable and reloadable.
- Personal OV-chipkaart is useful for anyone entitled to travel with a discount or monthly or annual season ticket. However, because this card requires a Benelux or German residential address or bank account not usable for most tourists. This card features the holder's photograph and date of birth.
See the main article for more information on buying and using an OV-chipkaart.
When travelling by train on the Dutch network on a disposable card, the card needs to have been bought at the station of departure before boarding the train at either a service counter or a ticket machine. After purchase, you must check in by tapping the card against a OV-chipkaart card reader before boarding the train and check out by tapping another reader when leaving the station at your destination.
The anonymous or personal OV-chipkaart can be used on all modes of transport except Eurostar and night trains. As reservations are not necessary to ride on most trains operating within the country and there are no special discounts offered on such trains (excluding Eurostar, night trains, and the international segments of the ICE, IC-Berlijn, and IC-Brussels train), passengers with an adequately-loaded OV-chipkaart can proceed directly to the platform (but check in and check out using the fare gates or chippaal). Using the ticket machines or going to the ticket desks before a train journey is only necessary to top up credit or change the class of travel. The fare that will be deducted will be the same fare that is offered when trying to book a ticket for that route on NS.nl and NS Reisplanner Xtra app.
The international tickets issued at Dutch stations come in the form of a disposable OV-chipkaart. These are, naturally, perfectly fine for travel abroad. International tickets, which when obtained abroad will most likely be traditional paper tickets. At the gate line use the barcode at the optical reader integrated in the gate.
NS tickets are also available in the form of an e-ticket, which is cheaper than a regular disposable ticket obtained from a ticket machine (€1 difference). You can pay with iDeal, Mastercard, VISA or American Express. These tickets can either be downloaded as a PDF file and printed onto an A4 sheet of paper, or loaded onto your smartphone using the NS app. Either of these has a QR-barcode on the ticket, which should be scanned at designated ticket barriers to access the platforms. Naturally, you should have a sufficiently charged phone should you use the mobile ticket. If your phone runs out of battery during your journey (far from every train has on-board electrical outlets), you may be fined for illegal ridership. A printed or mobile ticket works as a personal OV-chipkaart and will have some of your identity on it. You should, therefore, have a valid ID on you while using the ticket. If you are having trouble booking an e-ticket on NS.nl or in the NS app, try booking at B-europe.com, the website of Belgium's national railway company SNCB or the SNCB International app.
Overview of tickets
The following list provides an overview of tickets being sold online, at a ticket machine or at the counter. Prices are for online purchase or as loaded on an anonymous or personal OV-chipkaart. For purchase at a ticket machine as a disposable ticket, add €1 per ticket. For purchase of tickets at the counter which are otherwise also available at the ticket machine, there is an additional surcharge.
Prices updated as of July 2022.
- Single ticket - Valid on a specific date for 28 hours, from 0:00 until 04:00 the next morning. The cost depends on where you will be travelling. Passengers are permitted to break their trips at stations along the way but must check in and check out at every point and the whole journey is done the same day.
- Day return - A simple day return, valid from station A to B and back to A. The ticket is day-bound, being usable from 00:00 until 04:00 the next morning on a specified date. The price depends on where you will be travelling to and from. It is basically the cost of two single tickets plus the €1 printing fee (for disposable tickets only), therefore it saves money to get a day return if one is indeed returning to the point of origin on a disposable card.
- Railrunner - A child's ticket for ages 4-11. Kids under the age of four can travel the network free of charge, provided you can prove their age and they do not occupy a seat themselves. In first class, Railrunners are only valid with an adult over the age of 18 with them, with at most three railrunners per adult. The railrunner is valid on all modes of train transport within The Netherlands excluding only the Eurostar and night trains. The cost of a railrunner is fixed at €2.50 per child.
- Off-peak Groupticket - A single ticket for groups of 2-7 people. €34 for 2-3 people, add €4 for each additional person, with up to seven people being able to use a group ticket. The main ticket holder (the person ordering the ticket) should be present with the group at all times. The ticket may not be used during peak times (weekdays 6:30-9:00 and 16:00-18:30) even if the trip started before peak hour, or on King’s Day (27 April).
- Day-pass - Grants a whole day on the network, no matter what train you use (except Eurostar and night trains). The ticket is valid for a day at the fixed cost of €58.80 (2nd class).
- Off-peak Day-pass bicycle - A day pass allowing you to bring your bike on the train except during rush hour, for €7.50. Only valid with a valid ticket for yourself.
- Day-pass dog - A day pass allowing you to bring a (larger) dog on the train. €3.30. Small pets may be taken free of charge in a bag or basket or on your lap.
- Intercity Direct Supplement - For €2.90, this supplement allows you to use the Intercity Direct between Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport. Also available via the card reader pole on the platform (red colour).
- ICE Supplement - For €2.90, this supplement allows you to use the German ICE train between Amsterdam Centraal, Utrecht Centraal, and Arnhem. This can be purchased and loaded on the OV-chipkaart through the ticket machines or purchased online in an e-ticket format. It is not valid for travel on German segments of the route.
- Train + tram/bus - Made for tourists, the Train + tram/bus ticket allows for a connection to attractions in Bloemendaal, Arnhem, the Efteling, Eindhoven Airport, Scheveningen and more. Price depends on the connection you want. A full overview of which can be found in the webshop.
Regional and special tickets
- Amsterdam Travel Ticket - A one, two or three-day ticket allowing you to use Amsterdam's public transit, including a train ticket for unlimited travel in second class to and from Schiphol Airport by NS train to any station in Amsterdam (not Eurostar and night trains) and the Amsterdam Airport Express (bus 397). Price €18, €24 or €30.
- Amsterdam Region Travel Ticket - Comparable to the Amsterdam Travel Ticket, but also valid in all public transport in the greater Amsterdam region. Available as a one-, two- or three-day ticket (€21, €31.50 or €40.50).
- Euregio-ticket - Valid on weekends and public holidays for a day in the Meuse-Rhine area for €20 for up to two adults and three children under the age of 12.
- Holland Travel Ticket - A ticket valid on weekends and on weekdays outside morning peak hours (06:30-09:00) for €48, or at anytime on a given day (€70). Valid for train, bus, tram and metro. The ticket is valid on all railway services except Eurostar and night trains. This is not loadable on a personal/anonymous OV-chipkaart and must instead be purchased at NS service desks at major railway stations or picked up at AKO bookshops at Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam Centraal station. Travelling on Intercity Direct or ICE will require you to purchase the supplement as usual.
Tips for saving credit
Please not that for all tips, just like regular NS tickets, these tickets are NOT valid on Eurostar or night trains. For the Intercity Direct and ICE International trains, you must pay a supplement.
Don't use ticket machines
You can save a euro for each ticket purchased by avoiding the ticket machines and purchasing them through the NS app or the website, or pay as you go (PAYG) using a personal or anonymous OV-chipkaart with sufficient balance. Using the app or website requires you to have a sufficiently charged smartphone with the NS-app installed, or to print the tickets before travel. Please note that these are personal tickets, remember to bring your ID with you.
Weigh out subscriptions and discounts
Dutch train travel is simply put, not cheap. By using public transit as little as twice during your stay, it might already be more economical to get a subscription, discount ticket or day pass from the list above. The NS and 9292 apps both give you the raw, full-cost fare. As a rule of thumb, with a full-cost fare of about €20, it's likely worth it to buy a Holland Travel Ticket or other discounted pass. If you're only using buses, the price point where a day pass becomes cheaper is about half that cost, around €10. For select regions, such as one of the West-Frisian Islands, it may even be as low as €5.
Purchase off-peak tickets in advance
With the introduction of the Off-Peak Early Booking ticket in February 2022, after the pandemic, NS is trying to get travellers back on trains during the off-peak hours. The ticket, available as one-way and same day return, offer a 10% discount on the standard (Pay as you go) price if you book it at least 4 days in advance. You may NOT travel during peak hours, even if your journey started in the off-peak hours.
Subscriptions are perhaps the most straightforward way of saving money. Nederlandse Spoorwegen offers eight season tickets for saving money, which are usable in all of the Netherlands:
- Dal Voordeel (Off-peak discount) offers a 40% discount on weekends and during off-peak hours (€5.60 per month).
- Altijd Voordeel (Always discount) is the same as Dal Voordeel, but offers an additional 20% off during peak hours starting at €26.70 per month (€320.40 per year).
- Weekend Vrij (Weekend-free) at the cost of €34.95 per month (€467.40 per year) offers unlimited travel on weekends and a 40% discount during off-peak hours.
- Dal Vrij (Off-peak-free) offers unlimited travel on weekends and during off-peak hours for a €119.95 fee per month (€1,439.40 per year).
- Traject Vrij (Route-free) gives you unlimited travel on a specific route, as well as a 40% discount on all other routes, though the cost is route-specific.
- Altijd Vrij (Always free) is the all-in-one subscription, offering unlimited travel during the weekends, off-peak and peak hours for €353.80 per month (€4,245.60 per year).
- Grensabonnement (Border subscription) gives unlimited travel along specific routes starting at the national border and 40% discount for up to three travel companions. Again, the fee is route-specific.
- Kids Vrij (Kids-free) requires you to bring your kids aged 4-11 with you, allowing them to travel for free at any time. This is the only subscription that is fully free of costs.
Students in the Netherlands, domestic and foreign, can request a Studentenreisproduct (Student travel product), which can only be used if you're a student, but also once you're in the Dutch student financing system, DUO. You require a personal OV-chipkaart, to which you then link your studentenreisproduct. More options for students can be found here.
Should you need to use the train a lot when working in the Netherlands, have a look at Business Travellers' subscriptions . Requesting these will often require a validation from the company that employs you.
The discounts stated above are based on the fares of regular (Sprinter and Intercity) train journeys. This means that unless stated otherwise, passengers with subscriptions are liable to pay for supplements if travelling on Intercity Direct and ICE trains. These subscriptions do not extend to Eurostar journeys.
Using the train
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen website has information about services at every station on the Dutch network, including departures, accessibility, bike rental, lockers, waiting rooms, service desks, shops and restaurants, toilets and taxi / park and ride facilities.
At the station
If you have already obtained an e-ticket or have a sufficiently topped-up OV-chipkaart, you can just proceed directly to the platform of your next train but may need to pass through the barrier gates (see third paragraph for more details).
If you aren't familiar with the journey you wish to take, arrive at the station with time to spare. Entering the station is simple. Smaller stations can be entered without any hassle, but before boarding the train you will have to check in with your OV-chipkaart at one of the posts available on the station. You can do this immediately without it charging your balance, as the cost of a journey is distance-based, not time-based. In addition, most passengers who wish to take the Intercity Direct or ICE trains within the country have to tap their OV-chipkaart using the designated red pole as it will deduct the supplement required for travel on such services. Unlike regular journeys, this will charge your balance immediately. Tapping on the red supplement pole won't be necessary if the supplement was purchased in advance or through the ticket machines, or if a passenger's subscription already includes it. These red poles are found on the platforms of participating IC-direct stations.
Larger stations have barrier gates, requiring you to check in to access the platforms. These gates have the same function as an OV-chipkaart pole. Checking out at the same barrier-equipped station without travelling anywhere, within 35 minutes from check-in, won't charge your card's balance. The barriers are merely there to prevent fare evasion. Stations served by more than one train operator have different coloured fare gates; each colour indicating a different operator - make sure you check in with the operator whose train you will use immediately and check out of the operator whose train you just finished your journey with. Being 'checked in' with NS whilst on an Arriva train or vice versa will result in a fine or warning.
If you are travelling internationally but are using an OV-chipkaart for the domestic section of the trip, please check out at the last domestic station not covered by your international ticket. Likewise, if you are returning to the Netherlands from an international journey, be sure to check in at the first domestic station not covered by your international ticket. If your entire journey is covered by a pre-purchased international ticket (including Thalys, ICE, and Eurostar trains), you will still need to scan your ticket's barcode at the designated barrier to access the platforms and/or exit them.
All stations have LCD-displays showing the upcoming departures, with the first departing train always on top. These show the time of departure, platform, destination and service. Numbers in red written right after the scheduled departure time (e.g. +5) mean that a train is delayed with the numbers in red showing the number of minutes the service is expected to be delayed by (e.g. +5 written after 15:20 means the service will be delayed by approximately five minutes, which means a departure at approximately 15:25). These signs are found at the entrances of smaller stations, or in the main lobbies of the larger stations, often labelled Vertrekkende treinen (departing trains).
In the main corridor of the station, should it have one, there are always double LCD-screens per track, showing the direction to the stairs up or down to platform level, the two tracks you will find at the other side of the stairs, the two displays showing the time of departure, service, destination and the train after it. The same display also often has an analogue clock embedded in it.
At platform level the same display can be found, though only with a single screen. The platform number is often printed on the bezel around the screen, on which you find the time of departure, destination, service, stations visited on that specific journey, as well as further details and the train departing after it. These displays too have an analogue clock embedded.
The largest stations in the Netherlands either already have or will soon have gigantic LCD displays in their main lobbies showing roughly the next half hour of departures. Again, these displays show the time of departure, destination, platform, train type and further information, most often some of the calling points of each train.
Should anything unscheduled occur, then the displays will update with that information and an automatic announcement in Dutch can be heard. If the train is international, this will often be repeated in German, French and English. Trains in the Netherlands are not identified by numbers or IDs, instead, they are identified by their destination and time of departure (e.g. "The 16:08 Sprinter to Leiden Centraal via Lammenschans") (Dutch: "De sprinter van 16:08 naar Leiden Centraal via Lammenschans").
On the platform, stand back from the edge, behind the white dashed line if possible. Trains don't always stop at platforms, and the vortex caused by trains speeding past might pull you onto the track or under a train if you're standing on the edge of a platform. Do not use flash photography as it may distract the train drivers.
If you fancy a snack or think you'll need something to eat before arrival, now is the time to get one. Aside from the PROTOS trains on the Valleilijn, no trains have either a restaurant car or vending machine. The PROTOS only has the latter. Larger stations, often the ones where you have to switch trains to get somewhere, have shops in their main lobbies. These can include:
- Starbucks: the well-known coffee chain from the United States.
- AH ToGo: An on-the-go version of Albert Heijn, one of the largest supermarket chains of the Netherlands.
- Smullers: A snackbar, often featuring the Dutch concept of Eten uit de muur (Eating from the wall). No, they won't throw your hamburger onto the wall expecting you to use the wall as a table. Instead, you throw a euro or two into a vending machine or tap a credit/debit card into the reader and you get a hamburger, Broodje kroket, Frikandel or any other available food item in return. If the concept scares you, don't worry. They also have a regular counter where you can order a snack, a drink or Belgian fries.
- De broodzaak: A sandwich shop
- Burger King
- Kiosk: Usually on the platform, where you can quickly pop out of the train to get a coffee, tea or other while your train awaits departure on another platform.
Many of the larger stations also have ticket counters, where you can get your ticket if you'd rather talk to station staff. The ticket you get is a disposable chipkaart, which can only be used once, and will have an additional cost for printing.
Note that smaller stations might not have a toilet. All NS trains have a toilet on board.
If you would like to leave a train for a short moment to use the station services, be sure to always take your luggage with you when leaving a train, even if you intend getting back on again in a minute or two. Trains never wait long at a station. Besides, most services run every 15 or 20 minutes or even 10 minutes on several lines.
Finding your way about
If you can read Dutch or German, then interpreting the signage everywhere will not cause many problems. Otherwise, the language barrier can make your journey stressful. However, the signage is not too hard to understand if you know what you're looking for. Some words in Dutch resemble those in English. During your journey, you might run into the following signs or labels frequently:
- Bewaakt - Guarded, often accompanied with the symbol of a guard or policeman and a bike, meaning that this is a guarded bike shed or garage.
- Camera-toezicht - Camera surveillance, found on every station.
- (Fietsen)stalling - Bike storage area, either a bike shed or garage.
- Fietsverhuur - Bike rental, where you rent a bike with OV-Fiets.
- Geen toegang - No access
- Gehandicapt - Handicapped, most often referring to accessible toilets.
- Halen en brengen - Collect and drop-off, for use by private cars.
- Heren/Dames - Men/Women, toilets.
- Lift - Elevator
- (Niet) roken - (No) smoking. Smoking is strictly prohibited in indoor public spaces; therefore, smoke outside if these signs cannot be found. Since October 1, 2020, smoking is also prohibited on NS station platforms even those outdoors.
- Parkeren - Parking
- Spoor - Track. The symbol accompanied with this text is the number of the platform you're on. Platforms are always labelled per track instead of individually.
- Taxi - Taxis
- Uitgang - Exit, should you have enough of travelling by train for a moment.
- Wachtruimte - Waiting room
All signs except for the exit sign have a white background and a blue pictogram. The exit sign is green with a white pictogram.
Finding a train on the go
Aside from the NS Reisplanner and other tools to help you plan your journey, it is of course possible that you're refraining from those tools for whatever reason. Luckily for you, the connections are all still written down on posters found throughout the stations, most often at the entrances of smaller stations or the throughway to the platforms at larger stations. They work as follows: At the top of the page you will find the direction of the trains. On the image to the right this is Weesp, Duivendrecht and Schiphol ✈ OR Amsterdam and Enkhuizen. The pictured line has two termini, Schiphol ✈ and Enkhuizen. Often looking at the schematic below the directions is more insightful. Stations listed with have Intercity trains stopping there. Sprinters stop at all stations unless mentioned otherwise (which is rarely the case). Below that you will find a massive table listing (from left to right) the departure time, days on which the train is in service, the platform it departs from, the line operator and lastly the destinations and type of train. On the bottom of the page you will find some small information, such as footnotes explaining irregularities, as well as some other information. Often found terms here are:
- Maandag - Monday
- Dinsdag - Tuesday
- Woensdag - Wednesday
- Donderdag - Thursday
- Vrijdag - Friday
- Zaterdag - Saturday
- Zondag - Sunday
- Januari - January
- Februari - February
- Maart - March
- Mei - May
- Juni - June
- Juli - July
- Augustus - August
- Oktober - October
- Van - starting, start date
- T/M - Up to and including, end date
- Stopt vanaf [x] op alle stations - Stops at all stations after [x]
- Stopt ook in [x] - Also stops at [x]
- Stopt niet in [x] - Does not stop at [x]
- Vertrekstaat [x] - Time schedule for station [x]
The yellow signs however are bilingual nowadays, all the footnotes are printed in Dutch and English. Regional operators have their own versions of these departure overviews, though they aren't usually yellow. They're often plain white with some branding and may or may not include additional information, such as where train-replacing buses can be found should the service happen to be cancelled.
Boarding the train
You must have a valid ticket or validated OV-chipkaart before boarding the train. If you were not able to purchase a ticket and/or validate an OV-chipkaart due to a defective machine please report this immediately to the conductor.
If you have a seat reservation for an international train, then watch the display at platform level for your coach number. All trains have automatic doors, having a single button to open them per entrance. On the inside these may be on either side of the doors. These are almost always labelled with two arrows pointing away from each other. In older NS stock these labels also have the doors pictured, as well as an additional button for closing the doors. The doors are always locked when the train is moving. In newer stock, pressing the button to open the doors while the train is slowing down for the next station will light up the LEDs around the button, and will open the door once the train has stopped. Generally, it is best to press the button to open the doors as soon as the train has stopped, as in some stock pressing the button may open the doors regardless of the train having stopped. This button may occasionally not work properly, in which case, it should open after being pressed a second time. When the doors open, people leaving the train get priority over people boarding the train, therefore, always stand out of the way for people leaving the train.
On the door of each carriage are icons that tell you what facilities the carriage is equipped with (e.g. WiFi, toilets, bicycle-friendly).
Finding your seat
Having a ticket never guarantees a seat. Be prepared to give up your seating if someone having trouble standing upright approaches (e.g. elderly people or pregnant women). If someone requests you to give up your seat, you do not have to oblige, though it is much appreciated if you do, should the person have a valid reason to need the seat.
Always keep your ticket, reservation or OV-chipkaart with you. Do not tuck it away somewhere deep in a rucksack, as you might be checked at any time for having paid for the journey, albeit by OV-chipkaart or E-Ticket, a subscription or seat reservation. Should you lose your OV-chipkaart, you can report the card as stolen or lost. Should the card break, then you can request a replacement.
Depending on the operator and rolling stock, onboard announcements are either automated or manually done by the conductor, or the driver. Station stops are normally announced twice over the train intercom. At larger stations the possible transfer to other trains will be announced. Announcements are in Dutch, and also in English on international trains and on domestic trains for the major stations relevant for tourists or international travelers. Sometimes the manual announcements are difficult to hear or understand, so be sure to check the carriage display at the front or rear of the carriage, showing the next few stops as well as a time of arrival. Some railway operators may put advertisements on these signs as well, so wait a bit until the display switches to the right screen.
On automated systems, you may hear a reminder: "Reist u met de OV-chipkaart? Vergeet dan niet om uit te checken." (Travelling with an OV-chipkaart? Do not forget to 'check-out').
Travelling with luggage
Most Dutch trains are designed for travelling rather short distances, as the Netherlands is not a big country. Therefore, many travellers will not carry much luggage. This of course is different on international trains.
As a general rule of thumb, there is more space on single level than on dubbeldekker trains, though the amount of space in the latter might surprise you. Luggage can also be put under the seats; a space that remains unused surprisingly often. Be kind to your fellow travellers and never put your luggage in the walkway of the train; this is a safety hazard as well as a nuisance. Passengers leaving the train often stand up ahead of the arrival time as many trains tend to leave as soon as everyone has got off and on the train. When the train driver applies the brake, people might fall or stumble, and your luggage might break their fall if they do, but it is way more common that they get their foot tangled in one of the straps on your rucksack, duffel bag, etc. Only when it doesn't fit in the luggage racks or your seat is it acceptable to use the walkway as storage space. At that point, however, be prepared to answer "Waarom neem je niet gewoon een taxi?" (Why don't you just take a cab?).
Have you left an item on the train or lost track of it during your journey? No fear, help is always near. Nederlandse Spoorwegen stores an awful lot of lost items in their warehouse. If you've lost anything on their trains or in any station, then get in touch with them via their website or by calling them (☏ ). Arriva also stores your items for some time, though their contact form is only available in Dutch. Get help from Dutch passersby or station staff, who will most likely be willing to help you out. Breng, again has the same issue with their online form, though they do offer a quick and handy overview of recently found items along with a photo, making it more accessible to non-Dutch speakers. The same goes for Keolis. Connexxion's online form is somewhat more easy to translate, and you can most likely figure out what to write and select with a dictionary or translation service at hand.
Travelling with a bicycle
Effective Saturday, July 10, 2021, travelers with a bicycle must make a reservation for carrying a bicycle on a train. This is to prevent trains from being overcrowded with bicycles. Reservations can be made via ns.nl or via the NS-app, and will entitle the traveler to a 25 percent discount for a bicycle ticket (fietskaartje). Bike reservations can be made up to 14 days prior to the date of travel and up to one minute before departure. If the desired train has no available space for additional bicycles, the traveler may make a reservation on a following train. This procedure was introduced on a trial basis, and may be modified after a future evaluation.
Combining modes of transport
The Netherlands being one of the most bike-friendly and cycling enthusiast countries on Earth, there is usually some bike parking at stations, sometimes even a whole dedicated garage just for bikes. Utrecht Centraal has the largest bike garage, which can store up to 12,500 bicycles. Bikes often have a dedicated lane if not road to themselves. Cycling in the Netherlands is the cheapest and perhaps the safest way to get about from station to destination. Above that, they are often not much slower, if not faster than taking a bus or car through a city. Dutch law does not require you to use any form of safety measures (i.e. a helmet or knee-pads), so don't waste time looking for a place to find some.
Stations are usually well connected if not the hub of the local bus or urban rail system. The OV-chipkaart can be used on buses, trams and metros, with an alternative to the Chipkaart lacking more than OV-chipkaart support. To find a connecting mode of transport on the fly, look for the signs with the white background and blue pictograms. They will guide you to a bus, tram or metro (which are all spelled the same way in Dutch), a stalling ((bike) shelter), bewaakt (guarded (bike shelter)) or fietsverhuur (bike rental). The OV-chipkaart is fully integrated into the Dutch public transit system, so prepare to use the card for not only access to vehicles, but also for luggage lockers and private bike lockers.
Big stations often have special departure boards dedicated to buses and trams, making it easier for you to see where your bus or tram leaves, and giving you the pleasure of having to not getting soaked during heavy rainfall while waiting for a bus. When continuing your travel by bus, be sure to check-out your OV-chipkaart when getting off the train, and checking in as soon as you enter the bus, as rail travel costs are based on distance travelled, while busses' costs depend on time travelled. Should you prefer to pay for a bus ride by credit or debit card, then you can do so. Cash payments for bus tickets have since been stopped on paper, but many busses still accept cash for a ticket.
The Dutch bicycle-share system "OV-fiets" is only accessible for residents of the Netherlands. Users of the service require a personal OV-chipkaart and a Dutch bank account.
OV-Fietsen, bikes available for usage through the OV-chipkaart, can be found in the bike garage or shelter of the station. Which of the two the station you're using has, depends on the station. The OV-Fiets is a bike that can be rented using the OV-chipkaart. You will find them in the shelters or garages of the station either in a locker or a dispenser. You simply scan your OV-chipkaart, after which the locker opens, or in the case of a dispenser, a bike rolls out. It's strongly recommended that you check the tyre pressure and fix the bike seat at the height that's most comfortable for you. Should your tyres have too little pressure, then look around: every station in the Netherlands is equipped with at least one bike pump (fietsenpomp). Should the seat be too high or to low, then undo the lock on the seat pin via the small lever, place yourself next to the bike and bring the seat up to your hip. This should be roughly the ideal height for you. Then simply lock the seat in place by turning the lock in the opposite direction and go on your way. Should the bike have punctured tyres, then take it to the mechanic found at the station. If there is none, return your OV-Fiets and get another one. This can be done free of charge within 15 minutes. The OV-Fiets is a subscription based service, though. The service is as good as free. The only cost charged per year is €0.01 to check and confirm your bank details. Feel free to unsubscribe from the service as soon as your journey to the Netherlands is over. The subscription can be ordered and here.
Additional costs will be charged when you return your OV-Fiets to a different station than the one you got it from (€10). Other than that, costs are €3.85 per 24-hour timeslot. A single bike can be used for up to 72 hours, after which the price changes to €5 per day. You receive an invoice for use of the OV-fiets every month via email and payment is made via direct debit.
Domestic ferries in the Netherlands are only found as a link to the Waddeneilanden, which can all be reached with relative ease. Your OV-chipkaart is not usable on ferries.
- The ferry to Texel leaves from the harbour of Den Helder, the train station of which is serviced by NS, connecting the city to cities as far as Utrecht via Intercity and Sprinter. The 25-minute walk can be substituted by taking bus line 33 to Den Helder, Steiger TESO.
- Vlieland and Terschelling are both connected by ferry to Harlingen. Harlingen Haven train station is a ten-minute walk from the ferry terminal, but you could instead take bus 71 from Leeuwarden to get to the terminal as well.
- Ameland can only be reached by bus from Groningen and Leeuwarden via lines 163 and 66 respectively. You will have to get off the bus at Holwerd, Veerdam. Both of these bus lines stop at their destination's train stations.
- Schiermonnikoog can also only be reached via bus, connecting to Lauwersoog, Haven, which links to Leeuwarden (line 155) and Holwerd (line 163).
- Borkum is the only German island that can be reached directly from the Netherlands. The Eemshaven train station can only be reached from Groningen. The trains are synced with the ferry departures, connecting to Eemshaven five times per day. The train leaves at the time it is scheduled to, no matter if the ferry is late, as the line from Groningen is a single track with an half-hourly service. Waiting for the ferry would result in a delay for all of the line.
The Netherlands also has international ferries, all of which connect to the United Kingdom.
- IJmuiden — Newcastle (UK): The IJmuiden harbour can be reached from two ways: Travel to Beverwijk Station, from which you take bus 74, heading for IJmuiden Zeewijk. You leave the bus at the IJmuiden Stationsstraat stop, which means Station street, reminding of the station here that was used up into the 1980s, after which services were cancelled and the stations of IJmuiden fell into disuse. From the Stationsstraat, walk uphill, taking the first road left (Neptunusstraat), followed by another left onto the Duinstraat. From this point you should be able to see the harbour and getting there is as simple as following the road you're on.
- The quicker route, however, is to travel to Amsterdam Sloterdijk Station found on many of the lines from Amsterdam Centraal station, namely the lines to The Hague, Schagen, Vlissingen, Den Helder, Enkhuizen, Enkhuizen and Haarlem, all of which are Intercity connections, as well as Sprinters to Uitgeest, Hoorn, Zandvoort aan Zee, The Hague, Hoofddorp, as well as a Sprinter from Schiphol ✈ to Hoorn Kersenboogerd. From Ass, which is how Sloterdijk is abbreviated, bus 82 connects directly to the IJmuiden Sluisplein DFDS bus stop, which is way closer to the ferry terminal than the aforementioned IJmuiden Stationsstraat.'Ferries to Newcastle are serviced by DFDS Seaways.
- Hook of Holland — Harwich (UK): The Hook of Holland is directly serviced via a metro service by RET, which services Station Hoek van Holland Haven, which had trains running there up until 2017. Metrolijn B, which the station is on, connects to the train stations of Rotterdam Alexander, Rotterdam Blaak and Schiedam Centrum. These in turn are the easiest to get to via Rotterdam Centraal, whether that would be by train or metro is up to you.
Most trains don't, but there will always be a chance that your train gets stranded or can't continue for a different reason. The most common of which are signal or switch malfunctions (Sein-/wisselstoring), track maintenance (werkzaamheden) or defects (defect spoor), or the occasional collision with a vehicle, animal or person (Aanrijding met voertuig/persoon), stranded train (gestrande trein) or strike (staking). When in a hotel or anywhere else, you can check known disruptions on NS' website or the NS Reisplanner Xtra app on your phone. Their overview covers all of the Dutch network, including routes serviced by other operators. Here you can also find planned maintenance to the railways, so you won't be caught in surprise when you arrive at the station and the track is missing at your platform. You will be able to see the changes to your journey as well. When at a station, you can see disruptions on the main LCD screen in the station's lobby or entry way, as well as the displays by the tracks. In case of a delay, times on the station displays get rounded off to the nearest five minutes, while the NS Reisplanner does not round off times.
Should your train and the following few trains be unable to arrive or depart, then rail replacement busses will be dispatched. These are most often provided by the operator themselves. The operator may outsource this task, and will likely ask one or multiple touring bus companies to fulfil this task. Generally speaking, there can be either a snelbus (the faster or more direct connection) or stopbus (will stop at every station along the route). For these, you need to stay checked in. If the station where you're switching onto rail replacement buses is equipped with Chipkaart barriers, you need to check out to leave the station. In this situation, there will be a mobile unit near the buses where you can check in again. There are almost always staff members around in these situations. You can find them by following the signs labelled "Naar de NS-bus" (To the NS-bus), or something similar when travelling with other operators. Not every rail replacement bus is the same, so it's best to ask for information with staff (often either in uniform or in high-visibility clothing) when this happens.
The more temporary disruptions, which cannot be planned for, can be found in the "Disruptions" tab in the NS app, or on this page on NS' website. Track maintenance is a planned disruption that is often announced well in advance, and you can find planned disruptions on NS' website. This page, however, is not fully translated into English. Some basic phrases you might see are:
- Dit kan gevolgen hebben voor uw reis. Plan uw reis in de (internationale) app. - This might affect your journey. Plan your journey using the NS/NS International app.
- This phrase will often be used on ICE or other international journeys, where the maintenance is not carried out by a Dutch company. It might be worthwhile to check the website of the operator.
- Reizigers van [x] naar [y] reizen via [z]. - Travellers from [x] to [y] should travel via [z].
- This implies that despite the maintenance, this part of the track will still see train traffic across it. This does often come with additional travel time, which rarely exceeds half an hour.
- Het is niet mogelijk om fietsen mee te nemen in de bus. - It is not possible to bring bikes on the bus (though folding bikes will often still be accepted).
- A rail replacement bus service will be issued. This generally only applies when you can find this sentence in the "advice" column. This isn't a frequent practise during maintenance, as there is a preference for keeping services running during maintenance if possible. In the case of an unplanned disruption that requires rail replacement buses, it might be a lot quicker to check for conventional buses that will take you there faster, as rail replacement buses take some time to be organised and fully operational.
In August 2021, NS introduced the telephone number +316 1318 1318 that passengers may call if they feel insecure in trains or stations. The number is also available via SMS and WhatsApp.
The Netherlands has 397 train stations in service, divided over 388 municipalities. This excludes former railway stations that haven't been demolished, but includes stations with limited service, such as Utrecht Maliebaan, which is only used when the Spoorwegmuseum is open. These stations are all maintained by ProRail and serviced by NS, Arriva, Breng, Connexxion or Keolis. In the Netherlands, only the major stations are staffed.
Major stations of the Randstad
Major regional stations
The first train stations built in the Netherlands were temporary, as the railways needed to prove their use before being accepted into the country. Most 19th-century stations were built in neoclassical styles, some with German influences. The art-nouveau, known best from the Parisian metro, has only been used in a single station, Haarlem, which stands to this day.
Foreign railway companies got involved with train lines onto Dutch soil, building their own stations. Valkenburg's station, for example, is a misfit when it comes to Dutch station buildings. Stations alongside international borders were seen as a way of introducing the country, these therefore, even though they saw little in passenger numbers, were rather decorated.
The later 19th century and the start of the 20th century saw the rise of Standaardstations (Basic stations), which weren't basic per se, but rather a base of which several variations were made: a general blueprint. Take for example the GOLS Groot standaardstation, used for stations of the Geldersch-Overijsselsche Lokaalspoorweg-Maatschappij, active in the Achterhoek and Overijssel. Of the GOLS Groot type, thirteen stations were created. Of these four remain, being Groenlo's station, which has no line connecting it anymore, Haaksbergen's station, in use for a heritage railway, Terborg and Aalten, which are still in service on the line connecting Arnhem with Winterswijk.
In the 1930s, the style switched towards somewhat more modern designs while not abandoning the classic look of stations. Examples are Amsterdam Amstel and Amsterdam Muiderpoort, both built by H.G.J. Schelling.
In the Second World War, a lot of the Dutch railway infrastructure was destroyed, including many stations. This allowed for rebuilding using pre-fabricated elements out of concrete, as is the case for Zutphen and Enschede's stations, as well as Nijmegen and Vlissingen's stations. The classic look was fully abandoned in the late 1950s, with Tilburg station being the first to make the radical switch, featuring a large floating roof covering the tracks and station building. Abandoned and rarely used station buildings which were still in service had their building replaced with smaller stations, often not being much more than a ticket desk.
Starting around 1980, the look of stations gained more importance where the functionality of the building first was of utmost importance. More money went into the buildings, allowing for much prettier stations, such as Almere Centrum, which has a shopping street running through the core of the building, Leiden Centraal, which main walkway form a major connection between multiple parts of town. Schiphol ✈, Rijswijk and Rotterdam Blaak were built over an underground railway.
Where the aforementioned Groenlo railway station is no longer in use, with the line it was once connected to gone as well, it is not the only station with this fate. Stations in the Netherlands had their services cancelled en masse after the Blitz, with cancellations of service happening to this day. Former stations occasionally get a new purpose as a house, as is the case with Groenlo's station, but also as office, restaurant - you name it. Cancellations of service are not as frequent anymore, but stations whose service ended after Spoorslag '70 (the 1970 service overview of the Dutch railways, part of a bigger plan to make the railways better by 1975) that have not been demolished yet, are:
- The IJmondlijn is the line that Lovers' Rail, the first railway operator of the Netherlands serviced for several years. After they quit, the line was closed, leaving the stations of Driehuis-Westerveld, Velsen Zeeweg, Velsen-IJmuiden Oost, IJmuiden Casembrootstraat, IJmuiden Julianakade and IJmuiden to be abandoned in 1999. The stations are rather overgrown, but are able to be put back in service. The start of the line at Santpoort is still serviced by the Haarlem — Uitgeest railway, serviced with Sprinters.
- Hulshorst's services were cancelled at the end of May 1987, the day Amersfoort Schothorst was opened, as the newly opened station made serving the small station close to impossible. The stations was to be closed after the Second World War, but was not, as a servitude laid on the station, a document made during the purchase of the land on which the station stood, which roughly stated that the station ought to be served at least four times per day, twice in both directions, had to stop at Hulshorst. The then mayor of Nunspeet, the municipality the station is in, remembered reading the document and the station was kept in service. When service was cancelled in 1987, there was no trace of the document, nor of anyone having seen or read it, which allowed for cancellation of service.
- Kerkrade West and Wijlre-Gulpen had their services cancelled once the railway they were on was discontinued in 1988. The railway since has become the Zuid-Limburgse Stoomtrein Maatschappij heritage railway, which services both stations, though not regularly. Also on this railway is Simpelveld, closed in 1992 with the closure of the Maastricht — Aachen railway.
- Soestduinen's services were cancelled in 1998, and was not destroyed as it received the status of municipal monument. The station was closed as not enough travellers used the station.
- Rotterdam Hofplein was used as the terminus of the Hofpleinlijn until this line was converted to light rail operation by the Rotterdam metro, now connecting at Rotterdam Centraal. The station still stands, housing mostly creative start-ups and the like underneath the former tracks.
Many other stations have quirks or simply notable things about them. For example, Arnhem Velperpoort, still in service, has the same entrance it had in the 1960s, though it is no longer an entrance. The station building has been converted into a workspace instead. Going east on the same line, you will find other quirks such as a post remembering the Stillewald Halt near Wehl, as well as the West and Stadion stations in Doetinchem, the first of which is now an office space, and the latter is an abandoned platform. The main station of Doetinchem up to 2017 used to have no tracks 1 and 2, as these were the cargo platforms removed in the 1980s. Every line has notable features, and looking out for them can be entertaining on an otherwise bland journey.
Trains and rolling stock
While accessibility is a bit of a problem with NS (requiring separate staff at the station to operate mobile ramps to enable step-free access older rolling stock), this issue will be improved with the two Nieuwe Generatie trains being built as we speak. Domestic trains that are wheelchair-accessible are marked with an icon (). These trains generally have their balconies at platform height, removing the need for a wheelchair ramp or lift. When using an NS train, or an inaccessible train, it is required to ring up the service provider, giving them time to get a lift or ramp out. Due to the ineffective nature of this process and inaccessible trains being primarily NS Intercities, consider opting for only Sprinter and local services. Sprinters especially though. Alternatively, one can hope on the willingness of other travellers to help them embark and disembark, which many will gladly do when asked.
If you know the terms Deutsche Bahn uses don't be confused - while the ICE Sprinter is the fastest train with the fewest stops DB has, the Dutch Sprinter is essentially a stopping service - a bit like S-Bahn or RER, which calls at mostly every station along a given route. All Sprinter stock can be found in a white-blue-yellow livery. Since December of 2021, all of these trains are wheelchair-accessible and have toilets on-board.
The Sprinter Lighttrain or SLT for short, is the replacement for the Mat '64, introduced to passengers in 2009, 45 years after its predecessor was put in service. The SLT is intended for Sprinter-lines with short distances in between stops, which makes them most common in the Randstad. Its light weight makes for a fast acceleration, which results in shorter journeys, allowing for better usage of the routes. The Sprinter Lighttrain is, like other Sprinter trains, wheelchair-accessible, but only through doors indicated with a wheelchair icon. These doors feature a proper tray that slides out to connect to the platform, as opposed to other doors which have a fold-out tray, which only reduces the distance between the train and the platform a bit.
NS employs Stadler FLIRT trains for sprinter services as well. These were taken into service following a shortage of rolling stock that formed between the completion of the order for SLT trains, and the start of production of the SNG. This train features charging outlets in first and second class, and is decorated throughout with De Stijl and Mondrian-inspired elements. NS FLIRTs are mostly found in service in Noord-Brabant and Gelderland.
The Sprinter Nieuwe Generatie, or SNG, are being put into regular service on a few services. The SNG, which has fully replaced the older SGMm stock (that pioneered the 'sprinter' as a product) which ran between 1975 and 2021, is equipped with toilets on board and is entirely wheelchair-accessible by having the entire floor of the train be at the same height as the platforms at stations.
Intercity trains are essentially fast trains: They skip many smaller train stations and only call at interchanges and major cities. Occasionally, you may find Sprinter trains on these lines (most often SNGs), but this is only as an exception. Intercities can be identified by their yellow-blue liveries. Until the introduction of the ICNG in 2022, all Intercity trains do not have a floor at platform-level, meaning that, if you are bound to a wheelchair, you need to inform station staff in advance of your travels, so they may help you board the train using a wheelchair lift.
The Intercitymaterieel or ICM for short, is an intercity train used by NS. The trains are nicknamed Koploper, as passengers can walk the entire length of several coupled units through the head of a unit. Its name translates literally to head walker, but the proper translation is leader. Like the Stadsgewestelijk materieel, the ICMs too have been modernised, changing their names to ICMm. The ability to walk the entire length of coupled units was removed at this time, as the function was likely to fail and cause delays. The ICM has a reclining chair, power outlet, footrest, reading light and lectuurnet, a little net in which you can find some newspapers or store your own books available in first class.
The Dubbeldeksinterregiomaterieel (DD-IRM) or Verlengd Interregio Materieel (VIRM) is possibly the most iconic train used on the Dutch rail network. Its name translates roughly to Double-decked inter-region unit and is most often referred to as Dubbeldekker by passengers. The VIRMs have wireless network and displays showing information about your journey in the modernised trains. The regular ones have a toilet for everyone to use, with reclining chairs and a footrest in first class. These trains are in various stages of being modernised, and feature different liveries. Modernised trains can be recognised by either a blue band around the doors (on 6-car units) or by blue doors and large white NS logos on the sides (the so-called flow-livery on 4-car units). The modernisation project gives these trains new chairs and layouts, as well as some other quality of life upgrades, such as a more reliable air-con unit.
The Nieuwe Intercity Dubbeldekker, abbreviated as NID or DDZ, are modified DD-AR and mDDM sprinter trains dating to the 1990s. The DDZ is known to have run both as an Intercity and Sprinter service, making it the only Sprinter stock to not feature the white-blue-yellow colour scheme. The DDZ is outfitted with wireless internet and a toilet, with first class extras being a reclining chair, power outlet, reading light, footrest and a lectuurnet. These trains have been out of service because of rapid wear to the wheels and brakes, but are slowly being reintroduced onto the network in December 2021, starting with the Intercity service between Roosendaal and Zwolle.
The Intercity Rijtuig (ICRm) is an outcast to some extent, not being an EMU. The wagon is almost exclusively used on the HSL-Zuid service as Intercity Direct. The wagon features the standard reclining chair, footrest and lectuurnet in first class. Silence areas are spread through the carriages. These forty year-old carriages are scheduled to be entirely replaced with the newly-built ICNG trainset by 2025, with replacements having started half-way through 2023. After replacement, the ICR carriages are set to be sold, possibly so to GreenCityTrip, which operates night trains from the Netherlands and will likely convert these carriages to make them fit for sleeper train services.
The Intercity Nieuwe Generatie (ICNG), meaning Intercity New Generation, is the replacement for several trains. Most notably, it replaces the last passenger carriages in regular service, the aforementioned ICR. This replacement should be done by 2025, at which point ICNG trains will have started replacing the oldest ICM trains as well. An order consisting of 79 ICNGs for regular service, and an additional 20 for high-speed service (to Brussels) have been ordered. Furthermore, two additional trains able to run on the German network have been ordered as a prototype and proof-of-concept. The NS has, however, not yet announced any formal plans to run services to German destinations that aren't already in service with other stock. Regardless of where you'll find them, the ICNG is a single-floored train of five or eight parts. The train has been subdivided according to the coupé-systeem (detailed below), in combination with the usual division in first and second class. Not all of the train is accessible by wheelchair, but accessible spots and toilets are found on board. Alongside a single accessible toilet, each ICNG unit also has one or two 'normal' toilets. Travelling with luggage on an ICNG is also easier than on other trains; several compartments feature dedicated bag racks alongside the overhead storage racks. At your seat, you'll find an EU outlet, and an USB outlet. In first class one of each is provided per chair, in second class, there is one for every two chairs. During your journey, free WiFi is provided on board, though this doesn't function during the tunnel sections of the HSL line.
The DDZ, modernised VIRM and ICNG feature a layout following the somewhat controversial coupé-system. This should become the standard for all trains in the country given time, replacing the earlier division of the second class into quiet and non-quiet carriages. Throughout the train, you will find stiltezones (quiet zones), werken- en rustzones (work and relaxation zones), meet-and-greet zones and regular praatcoupés. The latter are found on the lower floors. The upper floors have the three stiltecoupé-variants:
- Werken- en rustzones: These zones are dedicated for travellers to travel in quiet. The traveller is invited to read a book, work, sleep or talk silently. Seating is most often in rows, as you would have seating in a bus. The Werken- en rustzones can be identified with an emblem of a sitting person, surrounded with headphones, a book and a laptop surrounding him.
- To make the system more complicated for everyone, this variation has a variation too. Should you be able to read the word 'Silence' or 'Stilte' on the windows, then you are in a stiltezone. You are very much discouraged to make any notable sound. Though you are allowed to have a snack or simply eat something, your fellow travellers may not be as much of a fan or you unpacking your lunch in a stiltezone.
- Meet-and-Greet zones: Meant for meeting people. Seating is most often in groups, with seats facing each other. There are even lounge areas for groups. The traveller is welcome to talk, use their phone to call someone and have extensive conversations at a regular volume. This zone can be identified with an emblem of two people facing each other, with a speech-bubble above their heads.
International and high speed trains
The Thalys PBA and PBKA units have little difference amongst them. The PBAs are used on the Eurostar Red (formerly Thalys) network between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, and PBKAs also go to Cologne (or Köln in German). Both units can and occasionally are coupled. Both trains are part of the French TGV-family. These trains can mostly be seen in the Dutch stations of Amsterdam Centraal, Schiphol ✈ and Rotterdam Centraal.
ICE 3M trains are used by Deutsche Bahn on international intercity journeys. Of the 17 ICE 3M trains that use the Dutch network, 14 are owned by DB, and 3 by NS. The "M" stands for "Mehrsystem", i.e. the ability of the trains to run under multiple voltages and in multiple rail systems, in this case the Dutch and the German one. The only line that these trains ride on is the Amsterdam – Cologne – Frankfurt – Mannheim – Freiburg – Basel-line, stopping on the Dutch stations of Utrecht and Arnhem. DB promises free Wi-Fi even on the Dutch stretch of its ICE journeys.
DB also runs its own InterCity (IC) trains to and from the Netherlands for example on the Berlin - Amsterdam route. As of 2017 they use a hodgepodge of rolling stock most of it refurbished since 2012 and capable of top speeds up to 200 km/h (120 mph). Starting in 2025, these trains are planned to be replaced with the all new ICE L(wikipedia) trainsets. These should omit the need for locomotives to be changed at the Dutch-German border, and these trainsets will have their entry at platform height, as well as a top speed of 230 km/h (140 mph).
Since the V250 Fyra trains were only good for 40 days of service, NS owns and borrows Bombardier TRAXX or NS HighSpeed 186 electric locomotives. The locomotives are being used in combination with the Intercityrijtuig (Intercity carriage) or ICRm for short. The trains run on the HSL-Zuid line (Amsterdam — Breda), as well as the Amsterdam — Brussels line.
The newest international multiple-unit train in the Netherlands is the Eurostar e320, known in the United Kingdom as British Rail Class 374. The train has arrived the Netherlands since 2017 on the Eurostar Amsterdam — London service. The train is capable of speeds up to 320 km/h (200 mph) and has some 900 seats divided over 16 carriages.
As for the newest international train in the Netherlands, that honour goes to the Siemens Vectron locomotives. These are in service on the night trains to Vienna and Zurich, but can also be spotted pulling the Intercity to Berlin. These locomotives, capable of speeds up to 200 km/h (120 mph), aren't owned by NS, but are instead leased by the Dutch Railways and their Austrian counterpart.
The Protos is an electric unit, of which 5 are in service in the Netherlands. All of which are used by Connexxion on the Valleilijn (Amersfoort – Ede-Wageningen). The units aren't popular, only 6 have been sold after some 10 years on the market, Connexxion being the only buyer.
The Stadler GTW is by far the most popular train on the local railways. Arriva, Breng, Connexxion and Veolia used the train, with the latter two no longer servicing in the Netherlands. Breng only uses the diesel model, Arriva uses both diesel and electric models and Connexxion uses only the electric model. Veolia's trains have been taken over by Arriva, which got the concession for Limburg in 2016. Stadler being a Swiss-German company, the name stands for "Gelenktriebwagen" or articulated railcar.
Stadler FLIRTs are used by Arriva in Limburg, R-Net in (mostly) Zuid-Holland, Abellio rail on border-hopping services into Germany as well as NS itself in mostly the southeast of the country to help support the Sprinter services. Arriva has ordered 8 additional FLIRTS to service Limburg starting in 2020, as well as 18 Flirtino's, which are diesel-electric hybrid trains, which too will start service on the northern lines by 2020. Keolis and Connexxion also have a small collection of FLIRTs riding on the Hanzelijn (Kampen – Zwolle – Enschede) and the Valleilijn respectively. Despite the name being a German abbreviation for "flinker leichter innovativer Regionaltriebzug" (fast light innovative regional train/railcar) it is virtually always pronounced as an English word.
The LINT 41/H trains are the oldest trains on local networks at this time. Most of the Dutch models have come from Syntus (now Keolis), which took 25 of them in service in 2001. By 2012 this number was down to 9, as Keolis had lost a large number of local concessions. Some of these were transferred abroad, and some were bought by Arriva and Veolia. Arriva bought seven additional LINT 41's in 2016.
The WINK is the most recent train to be put into service on local lines. They are two-part multiple units that run on either on a combination between biodiesel and on-board batteries or electricity via overhead wires. The pantograph will initially only be used when the train is parked in order to recharge its batteries, though the ambition exists to upgrade the northern lines that the WINK runs on to be electrified by 2025, at which point the train will those for its power. The WINK trains have been named for local attractions, such as the Wadden, Oerol, the hanging kitchens of Appingedam, Elfstedentocht and the STAR heritage railway.
The Dutch rail network is constantly seeing changes, no matter how minor. As this decade progresses, these are the main changes that have been announced:
- 2024: Intercity Amsterdam — Berlin gets scheduling changes, dropping stops and speeding up the service by about half an hour (5:50 instead of 6:22). The locomotives used by NS and DB on this service will also be replaced with Vectron locomotives, removing the need for a locomotive switch at the border.
- The Intercity Nieuwe Generatie will come into regular service properly, and start replacing ICMm stock.
- Major reconfiguration and revitalisation works at Amsterdam Centraal will start, and are projected to take until 2030.
- All NS trains will be equipped with ERTMS, after which the network will be switched to this system. Most vital lines will have this signalling system in place by 2030, but the entire country is only estimated to be equipped with it by 2050.
- 2025: The Intercity Amsterdam — Berlin will see the Vectron locomotives replaced with ICE-L electric multiple units, further speeding up and modernising the service.
- The ÖBB NightJet will have new carriages in service on the Amsterdam — Vienna/Innsbruck service.
- The fleet of Intercity Nieuwe Generatie trains will start operating on the Amsterdam — Brussels service.
- ICE-services operated with ICE-3 trains will see them replaced with ICE-3neo trains, which should make the Intercity to Frankfurt and Basel more reliable.
- 2026: DSB (Danish Railways) hopes to start operating an intercity service between Copenhagen and Amsterdam using their new Talgo-built trains.
- 2028: DDZ stock will start being replaced with a yet-to-be-announced partially bi-level 4 and 6-car trains. This is a sped-up replacement for the DDZ trains, as an effort to make more trains on the Dutch network wheelchair-accessible.
Heritage and steam railways
- See also: Heritage railways
When many lines were being closed between 1930 and 1960, some initiatives popped up to save several of these railways, making them heritage railways. All of these run steam trains. Listed below are the museums that have their own railways and running stock:
- Nationaal Spoorwegmuseum (NSM) in Utrecht is the biggest and best-known museum with one of most every train that has ever been in Dutch service. The museum is located in the old Utrecht Maliebaan station, and can therefore be accessed by rail. A sprinter service is in place between Utrecht Centraal and Maliebaan during the days that the Spoorwegmuseum is opened.
- Museum Buurtspoorweg (MBS) between Haaksbergen and Boekelo runs on the remains of the Doetinchem − Enschede railway.
- Museumstoomtram Hoorn – Medemblik (SHM) between Hoorn and Medemblik, which uses tram running stock, yet uses a former local railway.
- Stichting Stadskanaal Rail (STAR) runs a part of the line between Zwolle and Stadskanaal that has been partially broken up. The section between Zwolle and Emmen still exists, as does the part between Musselkanaal and Veendam in Groningen. The line might be reused by Arriva in coming times, as the province too supports this. STAR supports this aim to improve public transport between Groningen and Stadskanaal, though it wishes to continue its own services.
- Stoom Stichting Nederland (SSN) is a museum on steam-powered machinery. Within its collection there are several steam locomotives taken over from the East-German Railways following the reunification of Germany, but also an old NS 8800 class engine, previously used in the mines of Limburg. The museum is located in the north of Rotterdam, and the rolling stock can also be seen at events such as the Rotterdamse havendagen or Dordt in Stoom.
- Veluwsche Stoomtram Maatschappij (VSM) uses the railway between Apeldoorn and Dieren, starting its services back in 1975.
- Zuid-Limburgse Stoomtrein Maatschappij (ZLSM) rides trains between Valkenburg aan de Geul, Schin op Geul, Simpelveld and Kerkrade.
- Stichting Stoomtrein Goes – Borsele (SGB), is a reverse SHM, riding a former tramway of 14 km (8.7 mi) between Goes and Borsele with steam trains.
The Netherlands has a lot of narrow-gauge railways, most of which aren't noteworthy, having little when it comes to rolling stock and a scarce amount of track. The two most notable narrow-gauge railways, however, as well as heritage tramways are listed below:
- Stoomtrein Katwijk-Leiden (SKL) runs around the Valkenburgse Meer, not far from Katwijk and services half of the year from Ascension Day until the last weekend of September.
- Efteling Stoomtram Maatschappij (ESM) can be found at the Efteling in Kaatsheuvel, connecting many of the attractions throughout the park with one another.
- Electrische Museumtram Amsterdam (EMA) or Tramlijn 30 (Tram 30) is a heritage tramway running in Amsterdam alongside the 16 other regular tram services of the nation's capital. The line is historically speaking not a tramway but instead a railway. The railway is the last remaining piece of the Haarlemmermeerspoorlijnen, a series of railways located around the Haarlemmermeer.
- Tramlijn Nederlands Openluchtmuseum (NOM) services the Openluchtmuseum (open air museum) in Arnhem, connecting the vast park via tramway. The park is dedicated to showing the everyday aspect of the Dutch history, making the trams a lovely touch to the whole.
- Rotterdams Openbaar Vervoer museum en Exploitatie van Oldtimers (ROMEO) is a foundation dedicated to running the heritage tramway of Rotterdam, lijn 10. The foundation features a vast collection of trams and tramway and Rotterdam-related vehicles. Line 10, however, only runs in summers.
- Rijdend Tram-Museum (RTM) in found in Ouddorp, Zeeland and runs trams across the Brouwersdam, one of the dams of the Delta Works, connecting the islands of Goeree-Overflakkee and Schouwen-Duiveland.
Lastly, if you'd rather watch trains instead of travelling with them, then visit Madurodam in The Hague. Madurodam is a well-known miniature city featuring many landmarks of the Netherlands, and 4 km of model railway at a 1:25 scale. On and along this track you will find many locomotives that have been and are used by NS Reizigers and NS Cargo, models of the iconic Wadloper and Mat '64, as well as VIRM and Thalys models, running between scale models of the stations found in Utrecht, Groningen, Enkhuizen and Valkenburg. The Utrecht model is, funnily enough, older than the station it is based on. The scale model was revealed in 2007 to demonstrate the look of the station design.
A fair amount of locomotives, wagons and multiple units that were previously active on Dutch rails are preserved in small volunteer-operated organisations which aim to restore their rolling stock to an operable status, at which point they tend to be transferred to bigger companies that have the manpower to operate this rolling stock. Until then, this stock is kept in storage but can occasionally be seen getting shunted about. These trains tend to be restored at train service points, like those at Blerick (near Venlo), Haarlem, Roosendaal and Amersfoort Centraal.
The Dutch railway system is very safe, similar to its European peers. Accidents at grade crossings do happen, but generally they end worse for whatever is on the tracks than the train or the people inside it. In the 21st century, only seven fatal railway accidents have happened, accounting for sixteen deaths in total. The cause of these accidents most often is an object located in the train's path. ProRail, which is in charge of maintenance of the railways, wants to have all barrier-less crossings to have barriers by the end of 2023, which ought to make accidents even less frequent. Inclement weather that may endanger trains or passengers often leads to service being interrupted as a precaution, which understandably may enrage travellers but enhances safety.
Crime on trains - aside from occasional pickpocketing and "misplaced" luggage - is rare but should you feel threatened or harassed, talk to a conductor if you can find one - not all trains are staffed with more than just one conductor. Sadly enough, the conductor is more often the target of harassment than a traveller, often for simply doing his job. Treat railway staff with the same respect you'd have for a policeman. If no conductor is to be found, look around. Often you will either find an 0800- phone number on stickers in your wagon or find a noodtelefoon (emergency phone), labelled with SOS either at a central location of your wagon, or at the wagon's balcony. Call this number or press the button to talk to the operator's staff that will help you out as well as inform the appropriate emergency services. Do not use the emergency brake unless you've been told to by staff, which, even in the case that it is necessary, is very unlikely. Using the emergency brake locks the train for some time, stopping it from continuing on the tracks. By engaging the brake you're not only making life-threatening situations worse by making it more difficult for emergency service to reach the train, you're also making many people very mad by causing a delay on their daily route. Also, misuse of the emergency brake (Noodrem) is often severely punished, most often in the form of a large fine. No matter the severity of the situation, the Noodrem may never be used in a tunnel.
- Rail travel in Germany
- Rail travel in France
- There are combined offers for boats and trains in and to the British mainland, see Ferries to the British mainland and Rail travel in Great Britain
- Belgium § By train