Transport in the Netherlands

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Rail transport[edit]

Railway tracks for public transport in the Netherlands

Rail transport for public transport is operated mainly by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), minor parts by Arriva, Syntus, Connexxion, DB Regionalbahn Westfalen, Veolia Transport Nederland[1] and Prignitzer Eisenbahn (PE Holding AG, Arriva) (for the latter two, see Enschede). The Dutch rail network is the busiest network in the entire world.

Public transport[edit]

The main public transport in the Netherlands for longer distances is by train. Long-distance buses are limited to a few missing railway connections. Regional and local public transport is by bus, and in some cities by metro and tram. Also there are ferries.


Cycling is a popular means of transport in the Netherlands. 27% of all trips are by bicycle - the highest of any country in the world.

Cycling infrastructure is comprehensive. Dedicated cycle tracks, physically segregated from motor traffic, are common on busy roads. Busy junctions are often equipped with bicycle-specific traffic lights. There are large bicycle parking facilities, particularly in city centres and at stations.

Helmets are neither officially encouraged nor frequently worn.


Highway A15 - A16 in the Netherlands

total: 125,575 km
paved: 113,018 km (including 2,235 km of expressways)
unpaved: 12,557 km (2004 est.)

See List of motorways in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has one of the most dense highway networks in the world. There are 135,470 km of public roads, of which 5,012 km are national roads, 7,899 km are provincial roads, and 122,559 km are local and other roads. The Netherlands has a motorway density of 57.5 kilometers per 1,000 km², the most dense motorway network in the European Union. A motorway is called an "autosnelweg" (plural: "autosnelwegen"), or simply "snelweg".


The first motorway dates back to 1936, when the current A12 was opened to traffic between Voorburg and Zoetermeer, near The Hague. Motorway construction accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s, but halted in the 1980s. Current motorway expansion mostly occurs outside the Randstad, and very little construction has taken place inside the Randstad since the 1980s. Since 1991, only 100 kilometers of motorway have been constructed in the entire country, of which only 26 km lie within the Randstad metropolitan area.[2] The population has grown by 1.5 million since,[3] creating significant pressure on the motorway network.

Status and technology[edit]

The Netherlands has one of the most advanced motorway networks in the world, with Variable Message Signs and electronic signalization across most of the network. A special feature of the motorways is the use of Porous Asphalt Concrete, which allows water to be drained efficiently, and even in heavy rain, no water will splash up, in contrast with concrete or other pavement types. The Netherlands is the only country which uses PAC this extensively, and the goal is to cover 100% of the motorways with PAC. Porous Asphalt Concrete has some downsides, including the initial construction costs, PAC is two to three times more expensive than regular surface materials, and needs constant maintenance, especially with heavy traffic. Sometimes, the road surface has to be renewed within 7 years, especially on routes with heavy truck traffic causing widespread track formation.

In 1979, the first traffic control center opened in Delft, where the A13 can be controlled with dynamic road signalization. These electronic signs can show a lower speed limit, as low as 50 km/h, to warn drivers for upcoming traffic jams and accidents. These electronic signs usually contain flashers to attract attention from drivers. The expansion of this system halted in the 1980s, but accelerated in the 1990s. As of 2004, 980 kilometers of motorways are suited with electronic traffic signalization. Besides this system, another system of Variable Message Signs (VMS) have been implemented, informing motorists about the driving times or traffic jam length to a certain point. It can also shows the length of various traffic jams near large interchanges, so drivers can choose an alternative route. As of 2004, there were 102 VMS signs in the Netherlands.

Another more common feature of Dutch motorways are peak, rushhour or plus lanes. These constructions allow motorists to use the hard shoulder in case of congestion, to improve the traffic flow. Numerous motorways have peak lanes, and plus lanes are extra lanes in the median, which can be opened to traffic in case of congestion. All these extra lanes are observed by CCTV cameras from a traffic control center. They improved traffic flow, breakdowns, there are fewer places to safely park your vehicle, leading to more congestion. It has been suggested that these peak lanes should eventually be replaced by a regular widening.

As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, the Dutch government initiated a plan to establish over 200 recharging stations for electric vehicles across the country by 2015. The rollout will be undertaken by Switzerland-based power and automation company ABB and Dutch startup Fastned, and will aim to provide at least one station every 50 kilometres (31 miles) for the Netherlands' 16 million residents.[4]


Traffic congestion is common in the Netherlands. The country has one of the highest population densities in the world, which generates significant traffic volumes on both motorways and regular highways. Most congestion occurs in the Randstad, but congestion is a daily structural problem around almost all larger cities. The Dutch motorway network is one of the densest in the world, but many motorways are lacking sufficient capacity, and many bottlenecks of 4-lane motorways are present throughout the Netherlands. Traffic volumes are extremely high compared to other European countries like Germany or Spain, and comparable to that of the United Kingdom. Car ownership in the Netherlands is not particularly high, and lower than in surrounding countries.[5]

Since the early 1990s shoulder running has been extensively used throughout the Netherlands on many locations. During peak hours, traffic is allowed to use the shoulder as an additional lane. Special signage and electronic signs show if motorists can use the shoulder or not. It has proven to be a short-term solution, as traffic volumes grew substantially because of a redistribution of traffic over the road network, increase of truck traffic and significant construction of new urban developments, resulting in situations where shoulders do not only need to be opened during peak hours, but also off-peak and even during weekends.

The busiest Dutch motorway is the A16 in Rotterdam, with a traffic volume of 232.000 vehicles per day.[6] The A12 near Utrecht comes second at 220.000 vehicles per day. The busiest 4-lane motorway in the Netherlands is the A10 in the Coen Tunnel in Amsterdam with 110.000 vehicles per day. The widest Dutch motorway is the A15/A16 just south of Rotterdam with 16 lanes in a 4+4+4+4 setup.


5046 km, of which 47% is usable by craft of 1000 metric ton capacity or larger, see List of waterways and [1]. Punting and canal boats are very common, and are used by a lot of tourists.


crude oil 418 km; petroleum products 965 km; natural gas 10,230 km

Ports and harbours[edit]

Amsterdam, Delfzijl, Den Helder, Dordrecht, Eemshaven, Groningen, Haarlem, Maastricht, Rotterdam, Terneuzen, Vlissingen, IJmuiden.

Merchant marine[edit]

total: 563 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 4,035,899 GRT/4,576,841 metric tons deadweight (DWT)
ships by type: bulk 3, cargo 343, chemical tanker 41, combination bulk 2, container 56, liquified gas 20, livestock carrier 1, multi-functional large load carrier 8, passenger 8, petroleum tanker 25, refrigerated cargo 32, roll-on/roll-off 16, short-sea passenger 3, specialized tanker 5 (1999 est.)
note: many Dutch-owned ships are also operating under the registry of Netherlands Antilles (1998 est.)


Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport, is the main airport in the Netherlands, and the fourth largest in Europe. There are also a number of regional airports, the most popular being Eindhoven Airport, Groningen Airport Eelde, Maastricht Aachen Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport. See List of airports in the Netherlands


Transport in the Netherlands falls under the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management.

See also[edit]