Rail transport in the Netherlands
National railwayNederlandse Spoorwegen
Infrastructure companyRailinfratrust
Major operatorsNS International
Connexxion (Transdev)
Keolis Nederland
Ridership438 million per year
Passenger km17.1 billion per year[1]
Freight36.5 million tonnes (35,900,000 long tons; 40,200,000 short tons) per year
System length
Total3,223 km (2,003 mi)[2]
Double track1,982 km (1,232 mi)
Electrified2,321 km (1,442 mi)[2]
Freight only158.5 km (98.5 mi)
High-speed125 km (78 mi)
Track gauge
Main1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
High-speed1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
1.5 kV DCMain network
25 kV ACHSL-Zuid, Betuweroute
No. tunnels13
Longest tunnelGroeneharttunnel, 7,160 m (4.45 mi)
No. bridges4,500 (76 movable)
No. stations397[3]

Rail transport in the Netherlands uses a dense railway network which connects nearly all major towns and cities. There are as many train stations as there are municipalities in the Netherlands [citation needed]. The network totals 3,223 route km (2,003 mi) on 6,830 kilometres (4,240 mi) of track;[4] a line may run both ways, or two lines may run (one in each direction) on major routes. Three-quarters of the lines have been electrified.[2]

The Dutch rail network primarily supports passenger transport.[5] Rail travel comprises the majority of the distance travelled on Dutch public transport.[6] The national rail infrastructure is managed and maintained by the government agency ProRail, and a number of operators have concessions to operate their trains.[7] The entire network is standard gauge. The Netherlands is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC), and its country code is 84.

Most Dutch trains are equipped with Wi-Fi. They offer no onboard catering, except for a limited service on some international trains, due to the short distances involved.


Rail map of the Netherlands
Railway concessions in the Netherlands (2018)

Public-transport authorities in the Netherlands issue concessions for groups of lines:[8]

Foreign railway operators with NS authorization service several Dutch stations:

A common fare system applies nationwide, although operators tend to use separate tariffs. Although most trains have first- and second-class compartiments, Keolis Nederland and (sometimes) Arriva have second-class compartments only. The Netherlands' largest cargo carrier is DB Schenker; others include ACTS, Crossrail, ERS Railways, Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln, Rail4chem and Veolia Cargo. The network is maintained by the government-owned ProRail, which is responsible for allocating slots to companies.


Main article: History of rail transport in the Netherlands

The Dutch National Railway Company (Nederlandse Spoorwegen/NS) was founded in 1837 and tasked with building the Dutch railway network.[9] The first Dutch railway was built and opened in 1839 on a short stretch between Amsterdam and Haarlem, and was expanded between 1840 and 1847 to The Hague and Rotterdam.[10] Originally built with a broad gauge of 1,945 mm (6 ft 4+916 in), it was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge in 1866.[11] Further 19th-century expansion connected the rest of the country. Most of the main lines were electrified during the 20th century, beginning with the Hofpleinlijn in 1908. Since 1922, after a government-commission report, a 1.5 kV DC system with an overhead line has been used.


Main articles: List of railway lines in the Netherlands and Train routes in the Netherlands

The network focuses on passenger rail and connects nearly all major cities. A few towns still lack a train station, including Nieuwegein, Drachten, Amstelveen, Oosterhout, and Katwijk.

Most freight routes run east-west, connecting the Port of Rotterdam and Koninklijke Hoogovens in IJmuiden with Germany. Freight trains usually share the tracks with passenger trains; the only exception is the Betuweroute, which opened in 2007 as the first freight-only route.

The network is well-developed; no extensions are currently planned, although there is a focus on upgrading efficiency and capacity. Some sections may require an increase in maximum speed to 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph).

Major lines have been built in recent years, including the HSL-Zuid high-speed line, the Betuweroute and the Hanzelijn, connecting the province of Flevoland with the rail hub at Zwolle.

Rail map of the Netherlands
Maximum speeds, electrification and track doubling per rail section (2007)
Another map
Dutch intercity rail network (2015)
Construction of additional tracks between Delft Campus and Delft stations, 2020

Most of the network is electrified at 1.5 kV DC (which limits interoperability with neighbouring countries), although Belgian trains – built for 3 kV DC – can run on the Dutch network at reduced power. Both the HSL-Zuid and the Betuweroute have been electrified at 25 kV AC; although conversion of existing electrified lines to 25 kV AC was considered in 1997, 2005 and 2012 at a cost of over €10 billion, a 2015 proposal (revised in 2017) is to convert to 3 kV DC at a 2017 cost of €1 billion. The higher DC voltage would reduce power losses and have faster acceleration above 60 to 70 kilometres per hour (37 to 43 mph), so stopping trains would save seven to 20 seconds per stop.[12]

Speed is generally limited to 130–140 kilometres per hour (81–87 mph), but on most secondary lines the maximum speed is significantly lower. On the HSL-Zuid line, the maximum speed is 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph). Newer lines have been built to permit higher speeds.

Trains are frequent, with one or two trains per hour on lesser lines, two to four trains per hour on rural sections and up to eight or 10 trains per hour in cities. There are two types of trains: stoptreinen (local trains, which Dutch Railways calls "sprinters") and InterCities, with faster long-distance service. An intermediate category (sneltreinen, "fast trains") began being discontinued in 2007, although regional operators continue to use the term. Sneltrein and InterCity service were very similar.

All railways in the Netherlands are 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge,[11] and they have a total length of 3,061 route kilometers (7,028 track kilometers).[7] In 2001, 2,061 kilometres (1,281 mi) were electrified at 1,500 V DC.[13] Only 931 kilometres (578 mi) is single track. The country has 2,589 level crossings, of which 1,598 are protected.[14] The system has 7,071 switch tracks, 12,036 signals, 725 rail viaducts, 455 rail bridges (of which 56 are movable), and 15 tunnels.[14]

ProRail maintains Dutch rail infrastructure (except metros and trams), allocating rail capacity, and traffic control. Capacity supplied by ProRail is used by five public-transport operators and the cargo operators DB Schenker, ERS, ACTS and Rail4Chem. There are also small operators such as the seven-carriage Herik Rail, which can be chartered for parties and meetings.[15]

New lines

Two stations have a bi-level crossing, rather than a level or double junction requiring protection by signals: Amsterdam Sloterdijk and Duivendrecht. Other Dutch line crossings have grade separations.

Non-electrified lines

The following figure is the timetable number:

  1. ^ Approved for electrification.[19]

Rolling stock

Dutch railways have a variety of rolling stock. Intercity trains have a yellow-and-blue colour scheme, and local trains are blue, white and yellow.

Current fleet

Class Image Type Speed (km/h) Number Cars Operation Built Notes
Top Operating Max.
ICM EMU 160 140 144 3–4 Intercity 1977–present
VIRM 160 140 178 4, 6 1994–present
DDZ 140 50 4, 6 1991–1998 Formerly known as DD-AR, refurbished 2010–2013
Intercityrijtuig [nl] Carriage 160 43 n/a 1980–1988 In use by the high-speed Intercity Direct (Amsterdam-Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda) and Intercity International to Brussels
SLT EMU 160 140 131 4, 6 Sprinter 2007–2012
FLIRT 160 140 58 3-4 2016-2017 Used in Gelderland, North Brabant and Limburg
SNG 160 140 206 3-4 2014-2018
Class 186 (TRAXX) Electric locomotive 160 63 n/a Intercity (international) 2008–present Used to pull/push ICR carriages on the international route to Brussels via the HSL-Zuid

Future fleet

Class Image Type Speed (km/h) Number Cars Operation Built Notes
Top Operating
ICNG EMU 200 200 79+20 5, 8 Intercity 2017–2023 Will be put into service in 2021 and run at 200 km/h (120 mph) on high-speed tracks and 160 km/h (99 mph) on regular tracks.[citation needed]

20 more ordered for Amsterdam-Brussels service, with adaptations for Belgian network.[20]

Links with adjacent countries

The Dutch network has several cross-border sections to Belgium[21] and Germany.[22] Terneuzen is linked to Belgium (freight only), but not to the rest of the Dutch network; Lanaken was at one time connected to Maastricht (also freight only), but not to the Belgian network. Seven cross-border links are electrified. Due to voltage differences, trains must change single-voltage locomotives at Bad Bentheim or Venlo; Belgian 3 kV trains reach Roosendaal and Maastricht with reduced power under the Dutch 1.5 kV. The HSL Zuid has no voltage change at the border. Multi-system train units or diesel traction are also used. Several border crossings are disused or freight-only, and there are no gauge breaks at any of the crossings.

To Germany, north to south:

To Belgium, east to west:

International trains

See also: Rail transport by country § Europe

Long passenger train in a rural area
The InterCity between Amsterdam and Brussels, temporarily abolished in favor of the high-speed Fyra but later restored

There are several regional cross-border connections.[23]

Night service

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NS offers a limited night service (Nachtnet). On weeknights, it is a U-shaped stretch with hourly service connecting Rotterdam Central, Delft, The Hague Hollands Spoor, Leiden Central, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Central and Utrecht Central (most of the Randstad's large cities and the main airport). Due to the U-shaped route, travel time from the first five stations to Utrecht is longer than during the day. Because the relatively-short distance between stations, no sleeping cars are used. During the weekend, night service is extended to Dordrecht and four cities in the province of North Brabant. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is an additional service between Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Series Route Equipment Frequency
1400/21400 EindhovenTilburgBreda–Dordrecht-Rotterdam Centraal–Delft–Den Haag HS–Leiden Centraal–Schiphol–Amsterdam Centraal – Utrecht Centraal-'s-Hertogenbosch–Eindhoven VIRM Hourly; service between Eindhoven and Rotterdam/Utrecht Friday and Saturday only
21420 's-Hertogenbosch–Tilburg Hourly; Friday and Saturday only

Fares and tickets

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See also: Nederlandse Spoorwegen § Fares and tickets

A common fare system applies nationwide with NS ticket machines, although individual concessionaires have separate fares. The OV-chipkaart (public-transport card) permits ticket integration and price differentiation. Travellers must be aware of the different operators; for off-peak pass subscribers, a station requiring an operator change may experience delays during peak hours.[clarification needed]

Printed paper tickets were discontinued on 9 July 2014. Although ticket machines sell cardboard tickets with an electric chip, there is a €1 surcharge per ticket in addition to the OV-chipkaart fare. The surcharge also applies to tickets sold over the counter. For international journeys, passengers can print a pdf ticket at home, which carries a barcode permitting access to stations,

Passengers without a valid ticket are fined €50[24] in addition to the base fare, unless a ticket machines is out of order or another exemption applies. The fine must to be paid at once, unless the passenger can provide a valid identification card; in that case, they will receive a collection notice by mail. Travellers from abroad beginning Dutch train journey at Schiphol must purchase a ticket before boarding the train.

Payment can be made with all major credit cards at all ticket vending machines and the website.

Contactless payments

Since 2023, one can travel using contactless payments on all Dutch public transport [1]: on all domestic trains, metros, trams and busses, nationwide [2]. Using contactless one travels 2nd class. The price is the same[3] regular / full price as using the anonymous ov-chipcard (see above). You do not need an app or ticket, nor do you have to register or signup to use this. Apple Pay, Google Pay and many contactless debit and credit cards can directly be used [4].

Off-peak discount passes

Off-peak hours are weekdays from midnight to 06:35, 08:55–16:05 and 18:25–24:00 and all day Saturday and Sunday. With a discount pass, the discount is automatically applied based on the type of discount product and the time of check-in. Discounts include free travel.

A Dal Voordeel [nl] (off-peak discount pass) provides a 40-percent discount on travel beginning in off-peak hours. Up to four people can receive the discount if they have a public-transport card. A supplemental fare gives riders over age 60 years free off-peak travel seven days per year. Annual off-peak free passes (Dal Vrij)[25] and unlimited passes are also available, with some restrictions.

Railways in the Dutch Caribbean

Main article: Trams in Oranjestad

Saba, Sint Eustatius and Bonaire (the Caribbean Netherlands) have no railways, and there are no railways on Sint Maarten and Curaçao. Local tram service on Aruba began in 2012, built in cooperation with the Haguish tramway company HTM. Its rolling stock consists of one open, non-articulated single-deck tram and two open double-deckers,[26] running on standard-gauge track. Two industrial narrow-gauge rail lines on the island have been removed.[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Railways, passengers carried (million passenger-km)". worldbank.org. Archived from the original on 17 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "CIA World Factbook | Field listing: Railways". www.cia.gov. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 2014. Archived from the original on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  3. ^ "(Vernieuw)bouw van stations". NS Stations (in Dutch). Retrieved 2023-01-29.
  4. ^ Hofland, Dick (3 October 2014). "125 jaar Amsterdam Centraal" [Amsterdam Central station 125 years] (in Dutch). Sanoma Media Netherlands. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Nederlandse spoor zeer intensief gebruikt" [Dutch railtracks intensely used]. www.treinreiziger.nl (in Dutch). Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). 1 March 2009. Archived from the original on 2017-02-13. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  6. ^ Waard, Jan van der; Jorritsma, Peter; Immers, Ben (October 2012). "New Drivers in Mobility: What Moves the Dutch in 2012 and Beyond?" (PDF). Delft, the Netherlands: OECD International Transport Forum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2014-07-07. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b "Kerncijfers". Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-09-30.
  8. ^ Concessions; see also nl:Concessies in het Nederlandse openbaar vervoer#Overzicht concessies.
  9. ^ "Geschiedenis | over NS | NS".
  10. ^ "Nederland komt op stoom". Spoor (in Dutch). 2014 (3). Nederlandse Spoorwegen: 46–47. September 2014.
  11. ^ a b From 1839 until 1864 it was 1,945 mm (6 ft 4+916 in), see 1,945 mm (6 ft 42340 in) and "Parovoz". Archived from the original on 11 January 2013., it was changed because Germany and Belgium had 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in), see komlos spatial1 Archived 2007-07-12 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Making the case for 3 kv DC" in Railway Gazette International (England): March 2017 (Vol 173 No 3) pages 50–53
  13. ^ Elektrificatie Nederland
  14. ^ a b "ProRail in cijfers" [ProRail in numbers] (in Dutch). ProRail. 2017. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  15. ^ A complete list of licensed operators can be found at europa.eu Archived 2007-03-19 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "sporenplan w". sporenplan.nl. Archived from the original on 4 May 2001.
  17. ^ a b "sporenplan o". sporenplan.nl. Archived from the original on 24 July 2001.
  18. ^ (in Dutch) utrechtboog
  19. ^ "Elektrificatie Maaslijn definitief". OV-Magazine. 14 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Vanaf 2025 nieuwe en snellere Beneluxtreinen".
  21. ^ Thorsten Büker. "border lines – Belgium – Netherlands". bueker.net.
  22. ^ Thorsten Büker. "border lines – Netherlands – Germany". bueker.net.
  23. ^ For an overview of both passenger and freight traffic, see Belgium-Netherlands and Netherlands-Germany.
  24. ^ "Vaststelling bedragen, bedoeld in artikel 48, tweede en zesde lid, Besluit personenvervoer 2000". wetten.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  25. ^ q42. "Season tickets". 9292.nl.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ "Aruba trams".
  27. ^ "Auba and Aruban History". Retrieved 2010-12-19.

Further reading