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NS future to 2033 mapped out: will train become more popular than car again?

August 15, 2023

New contract

“At the end of 2023, State Secretary Heijnen (Infrastructure and Water Management) wants to conclude a new contract with Dutch Railways (NS). That contract will regulate the routes on which NS trains will run in the coming years, make financial arrangements and contain agreements to which NS must adhere,” according to the central government.

Important appointments

The new contract runs from Jan. 1, 2025 to the end of 2033. “The new agreements are important. The train plays an important role in the Netherlands’ sustainability task and is of great importance in making new residential areas accessible. In all places where an NS train now runs, it will continue to run. Abroad, this may be different. In our country, NS will continue to run all Intercity trains, but also, for example, the Sprinters between Zwolle and Groningen and Zwolle and Leeuwarden,” adds Rijksoverheid.

“Good public transportation makes the Netherlands a better country. Travelers deserve a sustainable and safe train journey that is decently arranged for a long time. Although high inflation and structurally different travel behavior remain major challenges, we get that done with these agreements. As a result, region and city can rely on the train in the years to come.”

Wouter Koolmees, chief executive officer of NS

Easy switching

“I think it is important that good accessibility by public transport is well organized throughout the Netherlands. It shouldn’t matter whether you live in Amsterdam, Breda, Beilen or Wolvega. The Dutch rail network is used very intensively by both passenger trains and freight trains. By entering into a single large contract with NS, I will ensure a coherent and reliable timetable that allows travelers to transfer easily and where the connections connect well. I also want to create peace and security for passengers and entice people to take the train more often. The current offering is the basis and will be gradually expanded. I think it is important that trains not only run between the big cities, but also to areas where fewer passengers board.”

State Secretary Heijnen

International Connections

What about international connections? For the international connections to Berlin, London, Paris and Frankfurt, they will no longer be included in the contract with NS, but other parties may also run trains there. This is already happening for these routes in Belgium and Germany as well.

“For these international connections, I believe the market offers opportunities for travelers. These connections cannot be compared to the timetable on our domestic rail network, where a combination of Sprinters, Intercity trains and freight trains bring passengers and goods to their destinations throughout the day. The connections between these major European cities have a different frequency and are also left to the market in our neighboring countries. It is therefore logical to deal with this in the Netherlands as well.”

State Secretary Heijnen

This is what the NS is planning

“The agreements in the draft concession regulate for passengers a strong and coherent network of high-frequency connections. As early as 2024, the schedule will be expanded. On top of that, starting in 2025, NS will move toward six times an hour an Intercity-Direct over the high-speed line between Schiphol and Rotterdam, six times an hour an Intercity between Haarlem and Amsterdam, six times an hour a Sprinter between Hilversum and Utrecht, and a Sprinter every 10 minutes between Rotterdam and The Hague.

Between Randstad and Deventer, NS is going to run more trains. The northern Netherlands will be more quickly connected to the Randstad by faster HSL intercity trains continuing to Groningen and Leeuwarden. NS is also opening a new station on the Leeuwarden-Zwolle line: Leeuwarden Werpsterhoeke.

In addition, in this concession period NS will start the AirportSprinter (a Sprinter between Schiphol and Amsterdam CS every 7.5 minutes), an Intercity between Eindhoven and Breda every fifteen minutes, an Intercity between Schiphol and Almere eight times an hour and a Sprinter between Tilburg and Breda every fifteen minutes, among other things.

NS and Belgium’s SNCB are doubling the number of daily Intercity trains between the Netherlands and Brussels from 16 to 32. In the 2025 timetable, there will be a new, fast connection that will allow travelers to travel about 45 minutes faster between Amsterdam and Brussels.”

Annual grant of 13 million euros

The ministry and NS agree that trains should remain affordable for everyone. However, the current concession has not been a profitable contract since corona. Therefore, the ministry has decided to no longer charge NS a concession fee – currently €86 million per year – but to provide an annual subsidy of €13 million starting in 2025. The levy NS pays for the use of the track – some 250 million euros annually – and the levy for the High Speed Line (more than 90 million) will remain. The Ministry of Finance, as an NS shareholder, has agreed to a lower rate of return.

The grant is a departure from the previous concession. Then NS paid the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management 86 million euros per year as compensation for the contract. During and after the corona pandemic, NS received financial support from the government to keep the trains running.

More expensive train tickets?

In recent years, NS has not passed on full inflation. As a result, the price of a train ticket has risen much less than the general price level. NS will not close that gap. However, NS does get permission to implement an occasional 3.5 percent increase twice – in 2024 and 2026. To keep tickets as affordable as possible, the state does subsidize NS and NS must make cuts to keep costs down. So NS is doing its part and will have to find tens of millions a year in its own operations, without affecting the operation. NS’ Central Works Council (COR) is closely involved and has an advisory role.

Fewer train passengers

“In order to provide passengers with a good timetable, NS will depend on subsidies for the next few years. Times are substantially different now than when the government entered into the previous contract with NS. Some 200,000 fewer people a day still use trains than before the corona pandemic, and passenger patterns have changed dramatically. In addition, energy and wage prices have risen and fewer trains are running due to staff shortages. I want a reliable timetable that passengers can count on. This requires government assistance in the coming years as well, otherwise far fewer trains can run than they do now and passengers will suffer. I don’t want that.”

State Secretary Heijnen

New fare system

Central government: “NS is investigating the possibilities of a new fare system, in which train ticket prices can differ according to time and route. NS will have the opportunity in the new contract to make proposals for a new fare system and to consult on it with consumer organizations, regional carriers and other concession granters.”

“I think it is good to think about what we can do to ensure that more people take the train at a quiet time. A different fare system, making travel more expensive during rush hour and cheaper outside rush hour, could help. But I also see that there are snags in this. This conversation must be held. Ultimately, I want the Lower House to choose whether we introduce a new fare system.”

State Secretary Heijnen


The new contract also establishes new agreements with NS that travelers can count on. NS is judged on that every year. The definitions of delays and seat probability have been updated and appointments have been added. It stipulates, for example, that NS cannot scale down schedules as easily and must improve travel information on delays.

European Commission

On July 14, the European Commission announced that it would initiate a formal notice procedure against the decision to re-award the contract directly to NS. This procedure has no suspensive effect and therefore the award can proceed as planned for the time being. The House of Representatives has repeatedly supported this intention by a large majority in the past.

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