Rail transport in the Netherlands

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The Netherlands
National railway Nederlandse Spoorwegen
Infrastructure company Railinfratrust
Major operators NS Hispeed
Ridership 438 million per year
Passenger km 15.5 billion per year
Freight 36.5 million ton per year
System length
Total 2,886 kilometres (1,793 mi)
Double track 1,982 kilometres (1,232 mi)
Electrified 2,159 kilometres (1,342 mi)
Freight only 158.5 km
High-speed 125 km
Track gauge
Main 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
High-speed 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
1.5 kV DC Main network
25 kV AC HSL-Zuid, Betuweroute
No. tunnels 13
Longest tunnel Groeneharttunnel, 7160 meters
No. bridges 4500 (of which 76 are movable)
No. stations 408[citation needed]
Railway network for public transport in the Netherlands (2013)

Rail transport in the Netherlands uses a 3061 km long network maintained by ProRail and operated by a number of different operators.[1] The entire network is standard gauge.

The Netherlands is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC). The UIC Country Code for the Netherlands is 84.


Railway concessions in the Netherlands (dec 2013)

Public transport authorities in the Netherlands issue concessions for collections of lines.[2]

  • Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS; Dutch Railways) - core internal passenger rail network (Hoofdrailnet), including parts with a night service (see below), and also some secondary lines
  • Arriva Netherlands - the northern secondary lines, the eastern lines and a central line
  • Breng - part of one eastern line (second operator on this line, in addition to Arriva)
  • Syntus - one eastern secondary line
  • Veolia Transport - southern secondary lines
  • Connexxion - two secondary lines
  • NS Hispeed - main international trains, and domestic high speed service Fyra

A few Dutch railway stations are served, even for journeys within the country, by foreign railway companies under the responsibility of NS; these companies are:

  • DB Regio, including DB Regionalbahn Westfalen and DB Euregiobahn
  • NMBS/SNCB - Maastricht - Eijsden, as part of the Maastricht - Liège service

There is partly a common tariff system. Increasingly operators apply separate tariffs, see below.

Most trains have 1st and 2nd class; some local trains belonging to Syntus only have 2nd class.

The largest cargo carrier in the Netherlands is DB Schenker, others are ACTS, Crossrail, ERS Railways, Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln, Rail4chem and Veolia Cargo.

The whole network itself is maintained and organised by the government agency ProRail, it is also responsible for allocating slots to the different companies.


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.[3] It was originally built to a broad gauge of 1,945 mm (6 ft 4 916 in), but was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge) in 1866.[4] Further expansion happened in the 19th century to connect the rest of the country. During the 20th century most of the main lines were electrified, starting in 1908 with the Hofpleinlijn.


The network is heavily focused on passenger rail services and connects virtually all major cities, although there are still a few cities without a train connection, 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 new Betuweroute, which opened in 2006 as the first freight-only route.

The network is well developed and dense. Over the last decades, there has been only little expansion of the network; instead, most attention is focused on upgrading the network in terms of efficiency and capacity. As of 2008, the issue of speed is also getting more attention, as there are plans to increase maximum speeds to 160 km/h on some sections.

Some important new lines have been built in recent years, however. These include the HSL-Zuid high speed line, the Betuweroute and the Hanzelijn, connecting the province of Flevoland with the railway node Zwolle.

Maximum speeds, electrification and track doubling per rail section (2007)
Intercity part of the Dutch rail network (2012)

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, and it is planned to convert old lines to this voltage in the future.

Speed is generally limited to 130–140 km/h, but on most secondary lines the maximum speed is lower. On the new HSL-Zuid line, the maximum speed is much higher at 300 km/h. Technically, more recent lines have been constructed to allow for higher speeds. An overview of maximum speeds on all lines is available in the Train routes in the Netherlands article.

Trains are frequent, with one or two trains per hour on lesser lines, two to four trains per hour on most lines in the country and up to 8 or 10 trains an hour between the big cities. Trains are divided into two categories: stoptreinen (local trains, which call at all stations; these are called Sprinters on some lines) and intercities, which provide fast connections between the bigger cities. An intermediate category of sneltreinen (fast trains) is being phased out, starting in 2007, but is still used by smaller operators. In practice there was little difference between the sneltrein and the intercities, so this change is little more than a re-branding.

The railways of the Netherlands are all 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge),[4] and they have a total length of 3061 route-kilometers or 7028 track-kilometers.[1] 2061 kilometers are electrified (2001) at 1500 volt DC.[5] Only 931 km is single track. The country counts 3,004 level crossings, of which 2,144 are protected.

ProRail takes care of maintenance and extensions of the national railway network infrastructure (but excluding metros and trams, for which see below), allocating rail capacity, and traffic control. The rail capacity supplied by ProRail is used by five public transport operators (see below) as well as cargo operators: DB Schenker, ERS, ACTS, Rail4Chem. Aside from these, there are a few tiny operators, amongst whom for example Herik Rail, with seven carriages, where trains can be chartered for parties, meetings, etc.[6]

Recent and new tracks[edit]

Two stations are located at a bilevel crossing of railway lines: Amsterdam Sloterdijk and Duivendrecht.

Non-electrified lines[edit]

(with timetable number)

  • Groningen-Delfzijl 84
  • Groningen-Roodeschool 83
  • Groningen-Nieuweschans Grens 85
  • Leeuwarden-Groningen 80
  • Leeuwarden-Harlingen 81
  • Leeuwarden-Stavoren 82
  • Zwolle-Kampen 63
  • Zwolle-Wierden 65
  • Almelo-Marienberg 72
  • Zutphen-Hengelo 73
  • Enschede-Glanerbrug Grens 522
  • Zutphen-Apeldoorn 67
  • Zutphen-Winterswijk 71
  • Arnhem-Winterswijk 70
  • Arnhem-Tiel 68
  • Nijmegen-Roermond 29
  • Landgraaf-Landgraaf Grens 525

Railway links with adjacent countries[edit]

The Dutch network is connected at several places to Belgium[9] and Germany.[10] Of these, Terneuzen is linked to Belgium (freight-only), but not to the rest of the Dutch network. Contrarily, Lanaken (B) is connected to Maastricht (also freight only) but not to the Belgian network. Six cross-border links are electrified. Due to the difference in voltage, trains must change monovoltage locomotives at Bad Bentheim, Emmerich or Venlo; monovoltage Belgian 3 kV trains reach Roosendaal and Maastricht with reduced power. The HSL Zuid has no voltage change at the border itself. Alternatively, multi-system or diesel traction are used. Several border crossings are disused or freight-only.

  • Same gauge:
    • Belgium Belgium — voltage change 1.5 kV DC/3 kV DC
      • HSL-Zuid — same voltage
    • Germany Germany — voltage change 1.5 kV DC/15 kV AC

International trains[edit]

The InterCity between Amsterdam and Brussels was abolished in favor of the high-speed Fyra but later restored

See also Rail transport by country, Europe.

Night service[edit]

There is a Night Network (Nachtnet) as follows.

On five nights a week it is just a single U-shaped line with an hourly service connecting Rotterdam Central, Delft, The Hague Central, Leiden Central, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Central, Utrecht Central (i.e., most of the large cities in the Randstad as well as the main airport). Due to the U-shape, journey time from the first five stations to Utrecht is longer than during the day. Because the distance between the stations is relatively short, the trains are not sleepers.

In the weekend the night service is extended to Dordrecht and four cities in the Province of North Brabant.

On Friday and Saturday there is an additional connection between Rotterdam and Amsterdam

Series Route Material Frequency
1400/21400 (Eindhoven - Tilburg - Breda - Dordrecht -) Rotterdam Centraal - Delft - Den Haag HS - Leiden Centraal - Schiphol - Amsterdam Centraal - Utrecht Centraal (- 's-Hertogenbosch - Eindhoven) VIRM 1x per hour - operates between Eindhoven and Rotterdam/Utrecht Friday, Saturday nights only
21420 's-Hertogenbosch - Tilburg 1x per hour, Friday, Saturday nights only

"Friday night" means the night between Friday and Saturday, etc.

Fares and tickets[edit]

See also Nederlandse Spoorwegen#Fares and tickets.

There is partly a common tariff system. Increasingly operators apply separate tariffs, partly related to the gradually introduced OV-chipkaart, which combines ticket integration (also with other public transport) with price differentiation. However, a series of new passes introduced by NS in 2011 are now also valid in trains of other operators.

Even so these developments require traveller awareness of the various operators. For holders of an off-peak pass, a station where one has to change operator acts as a barrier in peak hours, see below.

Paper railway tickets are planned to be abolished in the course of 2013.

Meanwhile, paper tickets are available from the ticket machines; at the counter (if available) a supplement of €0.50 per ticket (with a maximum of €1 per occasion) has to be paid (from June 2004), except by people over 60 years old.

For simple tickets for one journey with only one operator, the price of a paper ticket from the ticket machine is the same as the price with the chipkaart. For a journey involving multiple operators a paper ticket is usually cheaper. Some special discounts are available with the chipkaart only, some others with paper tickets only.

Passengers not carrying a valid ticket (paper or electronic) are fined €35 plus the fare, unless the ticket machines were all out of order or some other exemption applies. The fine has to be paid at once except if the passenger is able to provide a valid identification card, in which case one can receive a collection notice in the mail. For foreigners arriving at Amsterdam Airport (which has its own train station underneath) it is good to know that buying a ticket on the train is very expensive because then they actually have to pay a fine.

It is also possible to buy tickets online on the Dutch Railways website, but payment can only be made via a Dutch Bank account so this system is really only applicable to Dutch residents. A workaround is to buy Dutch domestic train tickets online at the Belgian Railways website, which is able to sell these as it is part of the Benelux ticketing system, accepts major credit cards, and issues Dutch domestic fares as print-at-home tickets.

Off-peak discount passes[edit]

Counted as off-peak hours are weekdays 0:00-6:34:59, 8:55-16:04:59 and 18:25-24:00[12] and on Saturdays and Sundays the whole day. With a discount product on the pass one is automatically granted the discount based on the type of the discount product and the time of checking in. The term discount includes 100% discount, i.e. free travel.

There is an Off-Peak Discount Pass (in Dutch: Dal Voordeel) for €50 / year, allowing a 40% discount on journeys starting in off-peak hours. In the case of a group of up to four people, all get the discount even if only one has a pass.

People of 60 years or older can buy a supplement for €14 for free travel during off-peak hours on 7 days of choice (with some limitations) during the year. It is not possible to buy multiple supplements for the same year.

There is also an Off-Peak Free Pass (in Dutch: Dal Vrij) for €99 / month (minimum contract duration one year), allowing free journeys which each start in the off-peak hours (compare the OV-Jaarabonnement).[13] Here "journey" refers to a journey with a single operator. Thus, for free travel, changing to a train of a different operator has to be in the off-peak hours too.

For €309 / month (minimum contract duration one year), travelers can buy Altijd Vrij, for unlimited travel in the peak hours too.

Use of all these passes requires checking in at the beginning of a journey and checking out at the end, otherwise the traveller risks a fine.

Regulations involving time periods:

  • 100 seconds: minimum time between checking in and out or out and in for NS, except if another card reader is used
  • 2–3 minutes:[14] minimum time between checking in and out or out and in, except for NS; for Arriva one minute less
  • 5 minutes: margin in favor of traveller applied to times of start and end of off-peak hours, compared to those published (above this margin is already taken into account); (confirmed for all operators except Connexxion)
  • 30 minutes: maximum allowed time between checking in and scheduled departure time of the train (applies to NS; for other operators unknown)
  • 1 hour: maximum allowed time between checking in and out at the same station without travelling; this is free of charge (applies to NS; for other operators unknown); for the holder of the Off-Peak Free Pass who checks in in off-peak hours there is no time limit, except in the case of checking in for Connexxion
  • 6 hours: maximum allowed time between checking in and checking out (applies to NS; Arriva: 4 hours; for other operators unknown)

Railways in the Dutch Caribbean[edit]

Saba, Sint Eustatius and Bonaire (the Caribbean Netherlands) have no railways, and there are no railways at Sint Maarten and Curacao. There is a local tram service on Aruba, introduced in 2012 and operated by bus company Arubus. Construction took place in cooperation with Haguish tramway company HTM. Rolling stock consists of one open, non-articulated single-decker and two open double-deckers.[15] These trams run on standard gauge. Two industrial narrow-gauge railway lines have existed on Aruba, but those have been removed.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Kerncijfers". 
  2. ^ Concessions; see also nl:Concessies in het Nederlandse openbaar vervoer#Overzicht concessies.
  3. ^ a b c "Nederland komt op stoom". Spoor (in Dutch) (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) 2014 (3): 46–47. September 2014. 
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ Elektrificatie Nederland
  6. ^ A complete list of licensed operators can be found at europa.eu
  7. ^ sporenplan w
  8. ^ (in Dutch) utrechtboog
  9. ^ http://www.bueker.net/trainspotting/lines_belgium-netherlands.php
  10. ^ http://www.bueker.net/trainspotting/lines_netherlands-germany.php
  11. ^ For an overview of both passenger and freight traffic, see Belgium-Netherlands and Netherlands-Germany.
  12. ^ taken into account the 5 minutes margin mentioned below
  13. ^ For more passes see [1].
  14. ^ Three minutes on a clock that ignores seconds, for example from 12:34:56 until 12:37:00
  15. ^ "Aruba trams". 
  16. ^ "Auba and Aruban History.". Retrieved 2010-12-19. 

External links[edit]