|State-owned naamloze vennootschap
|Wouter Koolmees (CEO)
|Rail transport, rail construction, services
Number of employees
|State of the Netherlands
|Dates of operation
|Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij (HSM)
Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen (SS)
|1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS; Dutch: [ˈneːdərlɑntsə ˈspoːrˌʋeːɣə(n)] ; English: ⓘ"Dutch Railways") is the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands. It is a Dutch state-owned company founded in 1938. The Dutch rail network is the busiest in the European Union, and the third busiest in the world after Switzerland and Japan.
The rail infrastructure is maintained by network manager ProRail, which was split off from NS in 2003. Freight operator NS Cargo merged with DB Cargo in 2000. NS runs 4,800 scheduled domestic trains a day, serving 1.1 million passengers. The NS also provides international rail services from the Netherlands to other European destinations and carries out concessions on some foreign rail markets through its subsidiary Abellio.
World War I caused an economic downturn in the Netherlands that caused the two largest Dutch railway companies, Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij (HSM) and Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen (SS), to become unprofitable. The companies avoided bankruptcy by integrating their operations, which was complete by 1917. The cooperation was for both economic and ideological reasons, and the state provided support by buying shares in both companies. In 1938, the state bought the remaining shares and merged the companies to create NS; NS was not nationalised.
See also: Holocaust trains § Netherlands
During World War II, NS was forced by the Germans to construct railways to Westerbork transit camp and transport almost a hundred thousand Jews to extermination camps. The company's only wartime strike was during the Dutch famine of 1944–45; NS opted not to strike a year earlier.
NS played a pivotal role in the post-war reconstruction of the Netherlands; it provided the required logistical services in a time when there was little alternative to rail transport. The company declined in the 1960s – like many other railways – and operated at a loss. There was increased competition from other modes of transport. In addition, national coal distribution from Limburg became less profitable; the discovery of a gas field near Slochteren led to coal losing market share to natural gas in power plants and homes. NS' response, the Spoorslag '70 plan which increased service and introduced intercity service, failed to restore profitability. The company was deemed nationally important and received state subsidies.
NS was reorganized following the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and the 1991 EU Directive 91/440; the latter required railway infrastructure and transport activities to be managed independently. Although the state called the process "corporatization" (verzelfstandiging), it really only meant the withdrawal of subsidies. The changes were carried out by Rob den Besten, who became chief executive officer of NS after the retirement of Leo Ploeger.
NS' infrastructure division was split off into NS Railinfratrust. Plans to split the remainder of NS met with limited success due to trade union opposition; the new companies created were NS Reizigers and locomotive maintenance company NedTrain. Passenger transport was to be conducted on a commercial basis, but the state continued to subsidize non-viable routes. Internally, route managers assumed de facto control, clarify] The freight business, NS Cargo, merged with Deutsche Bahn; the resulting company operated as Railion in 2000 and then as DB Cargo. Performance deteriorated after the reforms, and the company suffered multiple unorganized strikes. The entire board of directors resigned in late-2001.[
Another change in strategy followed. Karel Noordzij became CEO in 2002 and reversed many of the reforms to restore confidence in the company. The state no longer considered competitive passenger service to be viable, and began granting concessions with the goal of one concession per line. NS received a concession to run main line routes until 2025.
The timetable change on 10 December 2006 saw the most routes to approximate the symmetry minute in clock-face schedules to the one used in most other European countries. The previous symmetry minute 46 led to problems with cross-border trains. As of December 2022[update] the company's CEO is former minister Wouter Koolmees, after Marjan Rintel left to become CEO of KLM.
NS was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused massive drops in passenger numbers. The company received significant financial support from the national government in order to keep the company solvent. In 2022, the company made significant cuts in its timetable, running fewer and shorter trains, as a consequence of personnel shortages.
NS has been involved in various controversies.
The NS covers most of the country, with almost all cities connected, mostly with a service frequency of two trains an hour or more and at least four trains per hour between all of the largest five cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven) as well as some smaller cities (Nijmegen, Amersfoort, Arnhem, 's-Hertogenbosch, Dordrecht and Leiden). From December 2008 train frequencies were increased on the following services: Arnhem–Nijmegen (8 trains per hour) and The Hague–Rotterdam (12 trains per hour), Amsterdam Centraal–Hoofddorp (16 trains per hour). A night train service was added between Utrecht, Gouda and Rotterdam. Trains usually run between 5:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. although there is also a nightline which connects major cities in the Randstad throughout the night, as well as in weekends also some major cities in North Brabant.
In addition to its domestic services, NS is also a partner (along with Stena Line and its British railway company Abellio Greater Anglia) in the Dutchflyer service. NS has also entered into a partnership with KLM to operate services on the new HSL-Zuid under the name Intercity Direct towards Breda and Brussels. Intercity Direct is part of NS International; other services such as Thalys to France and Intercity-Express to Germany and Switzerland are also part of NS International.
The hoofdrailnet is the official core internal passenger rail network of the Netherlands. Currently, NS has a concession until 1 January 2025 to provide all passenger services on this network, except that on some stretches there is an overlap with lines for which other operators have a concession. Some of the most notable of these stretches are those from Elst railway station to Arnhem Centraal railway station, where NS shares tracks with Arriva, and further on to Arnhem Velperpoort. Here the tracks are shared by three operators, as Breng, ultimately part of Transdev, operates there in addition to the two previously mentioned operators. Officially the overlaps do not constitute competition on the same lines.
The concession was free of charge until 2009, and costs an increasing amount since then, up to €30 million for the year 2014. The concession distinguishes the main stations and other stations. Except on New Year's Eve, the main stations have to be served at least twice an hour per direction from 6 a.m. to midnight and the other stations at least once an hour. Exceptions are possible until the start of the next concession.
The next concession period is 2025–2035. For the 2015–2025 concession, requirements include: for every train service where on average more than one-third of the passengers travel longer than 30 minutes, a train with a toilet is used, every newly ordered train has a toilet and in 2025 every train has to have a toilet. The last trains on the hoofdrailnet without a toilet were the NS SGMm (the so-called classical "Sprinter", retired 2018–21) and the Sprinter Lighttrain (SLT, these trains have since had on-board toilets retrofitted).
See also: List of trains in the Netherlands
NS provides three kinds of train service:
There are also two former train categories, which are now used only by private operators:
The OV-chipkaart is the common form of fare payment. Single or return tickets, used by incidental travellers and tourists, are available at ticket machines and service counters at a surcharge of €1. They are a disposable use-once only. It is possible to buy e-tickets online on the Dutch Railways website. E-tickets can also be purchased on the Belgian NMBS/SNCB B-Europe website. For long-term use, season tickets are available.
Travelling with these cards and tickets, one has to register starting a journey (check-in) and ending it (check out) at the destination. One always has to travel away from the point of one's latest check-in. Thus, in the case of a voluntary detour, one has to check out and check in to register starting a new journey.
Travellers need to be aware of the various companies other than the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. One needs to check out with one company and check in with another on some stations. There is common tariff system with four smaller passenger train operating companies: Keolis Nederland and Connexxion in the centre and the east, Veolia on the 'Maaslijn' and 'Heuvellandlijn' in the southeast, Arriva in the north and most of the east of the country and on the 'Merwede-Lingelijn' (from Dordrecht to Geldermalsen).
The OV-chipkaart is also used on buses and trams, where hourly tickets are for sale for those who have too little credit to travel but enough cash.
NS defines off-peak hours as weekdays from 09:00–16:00 and 18:30–06:30, and on Saturdays and Sundays the whole day. Therefore, the full fare is required on weekdays 06:30–09:00 and 16:00–18:30. With an OV-chipkaart that allows for a discount or free travel, one is automatically granted the discount or free travel at the time of checking in. There are several season tickets available that suit individual preferences.
The NS corporate logo was designed in 1968 by Gert Dumbar and Gert-Jan Leuvelink, both of the graphic design company Tel Design. Introduced in that same year, it replaced an earlier design which had been used since 1946. The logo, pervasive within trains and railway stations in the Netherlands, plays a significant part in Nederlandse Spoorwegen's signage, promotions, advertising, and graphic design.
The logo usually appears in blue or black on a dark yellow or white background. Since its introduction, NS livery has also had this same distinct dark yellow or white colour. The logo is a widened letter 'N' and a sideways (reversed) 'S'-shape. The two arrows in the logo represent the train's movement, and the two lines in the middle represent the track.
In dealing with the general public, these distinctions are not made and the terms Nederlandse Spoorwegen and NS are used.
NS has contracts with Connexxion and BBA, now Veolia Transport for the provision of bus services to replace train services in the case of planned and unplanned cancellations.
On 23 July 2010 NS sold Strukton to the construction company Oranjewoud N.V.. This concluded a long history of planning, designing and executing track development done by the NS.
There is a delay refund scheme entitling passengers to a partial or full refund of the ticket price if a journey is delayed by half an hour or more. The scheme does not apply on short-distance journeys (tickets less than €2.30) and cases in which the delay is the result of planned cancellations that were announced some days in advance. Refunds are, in general, half the ticket price of a one-way trip after a delay of over 30 minutes, and the full ticket price after a delay of one hour or more. That applies to nearly all kinds of tickets. The refund is not considered monetary compensation for lost time but rather as a reduction in charges where poor service has been provided. The system has been improved for holders of some rail passes. Part of the cost of the scheme is paid by ProRail, since they are responsible for part of the delays.
Tobacco smoking is prohibited both on trains and in stations. Smoking on trains has been prohibited since 2004, with smoking in stations permitted in designated smoking zones, until this too was disallowed in October 2020. 
Since June 2003, the sale of coffee, soft drinks, beer, sandwiches, candy, etc., has ceased aboard domestic trains. The increasing number of Servex convenience stores at railway stations and the relatively short duration of most train journeys in the Netherlands have lowered the demand for on-train services. In 2005, a much reduced in-train service of drinks and small snacks has been reintroduced on longer journeys. Now, the RailTender service primarily operates in the intercity trains on the trajectory between Utrecht and Zwolle/Eindhoven, Zwolle and Almere, 's-Hertogenbosch and Nijmegen, Apeldoorn and Amersfoort, Rotterdam and Breda/Roosendaal/Antwerp.
Conductors have a smartphone with a timetable, fares information, and a separate card reader to read the OV-chipkaart. Train drivers use a tablet with an app called "TimTim" to save energy and keep up with the timetable. The train driver can also see other trains that are in front or behind his train.
In 2018, NS saw its number of passengers increase by nearly 3 percent. On average, 1.3 million people took the train on a weekday, 100.000 more than in 2016 and the over 250 NS train stations are becoming increasingly crowded.
The top 15 busiest train stations in the Netherlands by travelers (NS only) per working day in 2019:
|Daily travelers 2019
|Den Haag Centraal
Also see List of busiest railway stations in The Netherlands