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N.V. Nederlandse Spoorwegen
Type State-owned company
Founded 1938
Headquarters Utrecht, Netherlands
Key people Bert Meerstadt, CEO
Industry Rail Transport
Products Rail Transport, Rail Construction, Services
Revenue 4.253 billion (2008)
Operating income €28 million (2008)
Net income €281 million (2008)
Employees 27,380 (2006)
Subsidiaries Strukton
Northern Rail
Website English Homepage
Nederlandse Spoorwegen
System map
Railway tracks in the Netherlands (2009/2010)
Double decker train in Amsterdam.
Locale Netherlands
Dates of operation 1938–present
Predecessor Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij (HSM)
Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen (SS),
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Utrecht

Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways), or NS, is the principal passenger railway operating company in the Netherlands. Its trains operate over the tracks of the Dutch national rail infrastructure company ProRail, which was split off from NS in 2003.

Every day, over one million people of a population of 16 million travel by train in the Netherlands.





The NS was founded in 1938 when the two largest Dutch railway companies, the Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij (HSM) and the Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen (SS), formally merged. These two companies, however, had been intensively cooperating as early as 1917. There were both economic and ideological reasons for the cooperation.

The old (in the foreground) and new (in the background) corporate headquarters of the NS.

Due to the First World War the economic situation had declined in the Netherlands, and the railway companies started to lose money. The railway companies were considered of great importance and thus letting them slip into bankruptcy was not an option. The companies thus started an intensive cooperation in which their operational activities were completely integrated, even though the companies themselves remained independent entities. To financially support the companies, shares were bought by the Dutch government. In 1938 the government merged the HSM and SS into the current company, the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The government bought the remaining shares, but never nationalized the company. Therefore NS remained (and still is) a private company with the Dutch government as sole shareholder.

NS as a state enterprise

During the Second World War the NS remained an independent company, but was forced to do the Germans' bidding; the NS was forced to construct the railway lines to camp Westerbork and help in the deportation of almost a hundred thousand Jews to extermination camps. The NS went on a strike once during the war, in the winter of 1944, after it had declined to participate in one a year earlier.

The NS played a pivotal role in the reconstruction of the country. There was little alternative transport in the country besides the train, while there was a huge demand for logistical services which the NS could provide.

While the 1950s were generally a good time for the company, it started to decline in the 60s, like most other railways around the world. Not only did the NS suffer from the competition of the car and other modes of transport, it also suffered from a loss of income when natural gas started to replace coal as the main fuel in powerplants and homes after a gas field was found near Slochteren. The NS had been involved in the transport of coal from the mines in Limburg to the remainder of the country.

The NS responded with an aggressive strategy named Spoorslag '70. This strategy meant, among other things, that the NS substantially increased the number of trains per hour and also introduced the Intercity services. However, it was quite clear that this would never return the company to profitability. Nevertheless the company was declared to be of national importance, meaning that it would receive large amounts of subsidies every year.

Reforms of the 1990s

In the early 90s, the government started to question the subsidies given to the NS. Not only were there questions regarding the way the NS spent the subsidies, but, after the neo liberal reforms of the 80s, it was also considered not done to award generic subsidies to companies. The government decided on the verzelfstandiging of the NS. (Although technically, this is not the case, but instead refers here to withdrawal of the subsidies.) The idea was that not only rail transport was economically viable, but that there could be competition as well.

There were two external circumstances which allowed for this to happen. Firstly, the European Union passed Directive 91/440, which prescribed, among other things, the (formal) separation of the national railways into two separate companies, one which deals with the infrastructure, and the other which deals with the transport activities. Secondly, the old CEO of the NS, Leo Ploeger, retired, which allowed the government to name a new CEO which would execute the government's plans. The new CEO was Rob den Besten.

The plans entailed that the government would remain responsible for the rail infrastructure, while the NS would provide the (passenger) transport on a commercial basis. Where the services would prove to be economically inviable the government would subsidise that route. The division which was responsible for the infrastructure would later be turned into NS Railinfratrust.

To facilitate the government plans for the commercial operation of the NS, den Besten planned to split the NS into many smaller independent divisions. The idea was that these smaller divisions would be better able to respond to the market. The plans, however, received massive opposition from the unions, which meant that the only divisions created were NS Reizigers, and locomotive maintenance company NedTrain. There were also other internal changes in the company. The routemanagers got de facto control over the operation, but they were dependent of a different organ in the company.

These reforms were never much of a success and left the company in an uncontrollable state. Result was that the company started to decline rapidly, and that the employees started many unorganised strikes. Following this, the complete board of directors felt it necessary to resign in late 2001.

In 2002 Karel Noordzij was named as new CEO of the NS with the mission to restore the confidence in the company. In essence, he did this by reversing most the reforms of the late 90s and restoring the company to the old state. Meanwhile, the government had changed its opinion of the railways, it no longer considered competition on (passenger) transport a viable goal. Thus, the government started to commission railway operators to run routes on the network. The NS was granted (by the national government) the concession to run on the main lines, whereas other companies received a number of the concessions on the secondary lines. The goal is to give individual concessions for the individual lines, but (at least) until 2015 the NS holds the concessions for main lines.


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 5 cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven as well as some larger cities: Amersfoort, Arnhem, 's-Hertogenbosch, Dordrecht and Leiden). From December 2008 train frequencies were increased on following services: Arnhem-Nijmegen (8 trains per hour) and Den Haag - Rotterdam (12 trains per hour). A night train service was added between Utrecht, Gouda and Rotterdam.[1] "Train routes in the Netherlands" shows all the routes of the Dutch Railways and the NS and the private companies. Trains usually run between 6:00 am and midnight, although there is also a night line which connects major cities in the Randstad throughout the night, and in weekends also some major cities in Brabant.

In addition to its domestic services, NS is also a partner (along with Stena Line and National Express) in the Dutchflyer service. NS has also entered into a partnership with KLM to operate services on the new HSL-Zuid under the name NS Hispeed.

NS Standaard Stoptrein, Plan V also known as Materieel '64
A refurbished Intercity called a 'Koploper'

Types of train service

There are two kinds of passenger trains:

  • A 'stoptrein' (literally: "train that stops," that is, a local train) stops at all stations, and is mainly used for local traffic. On some smaller lines, though, it is the only kind of service. 'Sprinters' are trains operating as a 'stoptrein', but only on dedicated lines in the Randstad. The Sprinter is the equivalent to the Swiss RegioExpress. Currently it is usually called 'Sprinter' because it usually uses the 'Sprinter' (2900 class) rolling stock; however, the service is sometimes operated using older style rolling stock (such as 'Plan V/T': 400, 500, 800 and 900 class).
  • 'Intercities' only stop at larger stations, and were introduced in the 1970s to provide fast train connections throughout the country. As with the formerly widely used 'Sneltrein' service, Intercities services are usually operated by 'DD-IRM' and 'ICM/Koploper' class trains. On some stretches intercity trains stop at all stations, including small ones; this applies on the stretches Haarlem - Zandvoort, Alkmaar - Den Helder, Hoorn - Enkhuizen, Leiden - Woerden, and Deurne - Venlo; in these cases the label "intercity" indicates that the train does not stop at all stations elsewhere on its route. See also Intercity services in The Netherlands and lijst van Nederlandse Intercitystations (in Dutch).

There is a decreasing number of trains of intermediate type called 'Sneltrein'. Most of the remaining ones will become Intercity trains with the completion of the HSL Zuid. On 10 December 2006 the NS introduced a complete timetable overhaul which has more frequent Intercity trains serving an expanded Intercity network, and smaller branch lines and stations being served by Stoptreinen feeder services. This is all part of the NS modernisation and expansion program.

Fares and tickets

NS shares a common pricing system with four smaller passenger train operating companies — Syntus and Connexxion in the east, Veolia on the 'Maaslijn' in the south east, Arriva in the north of the country and on the 'Merwede-Lingelijn' (from Dordrecht to Geldermalsen) in the country. However, the gradually introduced OV-chipkaart requires traveller awareness of the various companies, and increases the fare for journeys requiring a change from one to another.

From December 2009, after acquiring the OV-chipkaart no regular NS ticket has to be bought anymore. Even for recharging the electronic money on the card, one can order this to be done automatically. Using the Off-Peak Discount Pass in the form of an OV-chipkaart, one is automatically granted the discount when checking in in the applicable hours.

NS is encouraging people who still prefer to buy traditional domestic tickets, to buy them at ticket machines. They are still available at counters (planned to be developed into service centres) at larger stations for a supplement of €0.50 per ticket since June 2004.

The disadvantage of this is for foreign users, as none of the machines accept banknotes, while most also do not accept credit cards or non-Dutch debit cards. However the current web site and ticket machine web demonstration shows that credit cards are accepted.

It is also possible to buy e-tickets online on the Dutch Railways website.

During the annual Boekenweek, it is possible to travel for free on Sunday upon showing the Boekenweekgeschenk.

The Nederlandse Spoorwegen logo is the corporate logo of NS. The logo was designed in 1968 by Gert Dumbar and Gert-Jan Leuvelink for graphic design company Tel Design. It was introduced in the same year. The logo usually appears in blue (Pantone 288) on a dark yellow (Pantone 123) background. Since the introduction of the current corporate logo all NS trains have the same distinct dark yellow colour. The logo, which replaced a design which had been used since 1946, can be found in a great number of places on trains and railway stations in the Netherlands. The two arrows in the logo represent the directions of the movement made by the train, the two lines in the middle represent the track. The logo always plays a significant part in the NS' signage, promotions, advertising and graphic design.

Divisions of NS

  • NS Reizigers (NSR) - NS Travellers, responsible for passenger train services and for employing train drivers and conductors.
  • NS Stations - in charge of the operation of all 386 railway stations in the Netherlands, i.e., also those served by other railway companies than NS Reizigers; see also station facilities. Now part of NS Poort, together with NS Vastgoed
  • NedTrain - train maintenance.
  • NS Vastgoed - owns 48 km² of land, often near stations, and develops and operates these areas as public traffic nodes, offices and apartments. Now part of NS Poort, together with NS Stations
  • NS Commercie - product- and customer management (business and product development, marketing, sales and customer service).
  • NS Hispeed - operator, in conjunction with NS Reizigers and foreign partners, of high-speed international Fyra services on the HSL-Zuid, Thalys (from Amsterdam to Paris), ICE (to the German Ruhr area), Intercities (to Berlin and Brussels) and the Swiss CityNightLine (to Munich and Zurich).
  • Nedkoleje - in a joint venture with Polish Railways (PKP), operates trains in West Pomeranian Voivodship (Zachodniopomorskie), Poland.
  • NedRailways is the arm for international expansion of NS. In the UK NedRailways partners with Serco in a joint-venture which runs Merseyrail services in and around Liverpool and Northern Rail across the north of England. They also put in a bid to run the South Central franchise under the name of NedRailways South Central Limited, however this did not win. Nedrailways purchased the German bus and rail operator Abellio from Star Capital Partners and the Essen public transit company. On 21 May 2009, it was announced that they were to buy Travel London from National Express Group.[2]

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 for the provision of bus services to replace train services in the case of planned and unplanned cancellations.


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 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. This applies to nearly all kinds of tickets. The refund is not considered a monetary compensation for lost time but rather as a reduction in charges where a poor service has been provided. Many do not claim because the system is perceived as cumbersome[citation needed]; however, the system has improved for holders of a rail pass. Part of the cost of the scheme is paid by ProRail, since they are responsible for part of the delays.

Since 1 January 2004, tobacco smoking is prohibited on domestic trains, station halls and covered parts of platforms. The smoking of cannabis was already prohibited, though it happens occasionally and is not as severely punished as in some other countries (that is, it is punished the same as tobacco smoking). Smoking is allowed near smoking-zones (Rookzones), posts with an ash-tray built in, scattered around stations.

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.

Technological assistance for train staff

Conductors have a small computer called Railpocket with timetable and fares information. The latest version is the HP iPaq h4350 Pocket PC, which can communicate through Bluetooth with their Sony Ericsson T610 GPRS-telephone.


  • 14.73 billion passenger km per year (2005), which is 30% of the seat km.

See also

External links



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