Public transport in the Netherlands
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. There are also ferries.
There are 18 public transport authorities in the Netherlands: the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, OV-bureau Groningen Drenthe (OVBGD), each of the 10 other provinces, Regio Twente, Stadsregio Arnhem Nijmegen, Bestuur Regio Utrecht (BRU), Stadsregio Amsterdam, Metropoolregio Rotterdam Den Haag (MRDH), and Samenwerkingsverband Regio Eindhoven (SRE).
Rail transport for public transport is operated mainly by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), minor parts by Arriva, Syntus, Connexxion, DB Regio and Eurobahn. The Dutch rail network is the busiest network in the entire world.
- Amsterdam Metro, serving Amsterdam, Diemen, and Ouder-Amstel, operated by Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf (GVB)
- Rotterdam Metro, serving Rotterdam, Schiedam, Spijkenisse, Albrandswaard, and Capelle aan den IJssel, operated by Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram (RET)
- RandstadRail line E, serving Rotterdam, The Hague and the suburbs in between, running partially on the lines of the Rotterdam Metro and partially shared with tram lines 3 and 4
Both the Amsterdam and Rotterdam networks largely use third rail power supply, but include sections using overhead lines. The RandstadRail metro line E uses third rail in the sections shared with Rotterdam metro trains, but mostly use overhead wires. These sections also have some level crossings (with priority), and could therefore also be called sneltram (light rail) instead of metro; however, they are integrated in the metro system and use vehicles that can switch between both systems.
Trams and light rail
- Amsterdam tram network (operated by GVB), serving Amsterdam, Diemen, Amstelveen
- Rotterdam tram network (operated by RET), serving Rotterdam, Schiedam, Vlaardingen, Barendrecht
- The Hague tram network (operated by HTM), serving The Hague, Rijswijk, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Delft, Nootdorp, Wateringen
- Trams in Utrecht is the connection between Utrecht Centraal railway station and the new hub Uithof. There were too many students in the buses, which resulted in the tram being built. This project will be finished in 2018.
- Utrecht sneltram (operated by U-OV - Qbuzz), serving Utrecht, Nieuwegein, IJsselstein
- RandstadRail lines 3 and 4, serving The Hague, Zoetermeer and the suburbs in between, running partially on the lines of the Hague tram network and partially shared with metro line E
In The Netherlands, the only difference between a tram and light rail line is considered to be that light rail doesn't share its lane with other traffic. Some lines could be partially seen as light rail such as line 26 in Amsterdam, which only is only mixed with other traffic on both its balloon loops.
Both regional and city public transport bus services can be found throughout the country. Because of the extensive rail network, long-distance bus services are limited to a few connections where train connections are missing or would require a considerable detour. In the Randstad area lines with a high frequency and higher average speed have been branded as R-Net. These lines all use the same colour scheme, regardless of the company operating the line.
All bus operations (except for in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague) are awarded by a transport authority to companies by a public tender. The concessions can last up to 10 years, with extensions of a few years if the transport authority is satisfied.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment has decided that from 2025 all new buses need to be zero emission. This encourages operators to invest in electric vehicles. In December 2016, the first large electric (non-trolley) bus fleet was launched in Eindhoven, with 43 vehicles, followed in December 2017 by a fleet of 100 vehicles for services around Schiphol Airport.
Hours of service, and frequency
On most lines there is no public transport at night. Services usually start between 5:00 and 7:00 on weekdays, a bit later on Saturdays, and even later than that on Sundays. Apart from quiet, rural lines, most services end just after midnight. Also there is no public transport from 20:00 on New Year's Eve.
There is a night service on some train routes. There are night bus services in a number of cities, but only around Amsterdam services are on all nights, other cities only have services on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights. Sometimes these run during the first part of the night only, or in one direction only. Night buses usually have separate fares, which are higher than the daytime fares.
Even apart from special rush hour bus lines, some bus lines do not operate on Saturdays, Sundays and/or evenings.
The frequency of domestic trains is at least twice per hour during daytime on weekdays, except on two services by Arriva. Almost all timetables are planned on a clock-face schedule since 1971 and apart from a few regional lines all trains have a symmetry around x:00/x:30 as have neighboring countries. On many lines services are combined to 4x per hour during day or peak times. From December 2017 Intercity services between Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven are increased to six trains per hour. Zwolle and Zupthen are full hubs, with (almost) all trains arriving and departing around the same time, creating a connection from and to each direction. At the larger stations frequencies are higher and only certain cross-platform transfers are timed.
Metros operate on frequencies of at least 4x per hour, with 6 to 10 trains per hour during day and peak times, but often two lines are combined on busier stretches, increasing the total frequency.
Trams mostly have a frequency of 6x per hour, with less services on late evenings and Sundays, but busy lines can have up to 15 trams per hour.
Buses vary greatly in services, depending on the population density of the area, quality of service and demand for transportion. Rural bus services have typically hourly or half-hourly frequencies, but if a bus line serves multiple important hubs or towns, frequencies can be much higher. In larger cities the frequencies are mostly 4x per hour or more. Line 12 in Utrecht is the busiest bus line in The Netherlands, with up to 25 departures per hour using bi-articulated buses. During peak times there is no fixed frequency, but staff members on the bus platforms monitor the passenger flow and call a new bus in as soon as a bus is filled.
Fares and tickets
The OV-chipkaart is in the process of providing ticket integration for most public transport, while the National Tariff System is being phased out. Paper railway tickets were abolished in July 2014 and replaced by disposable cards. If the user doesn't have a (valid) season ticket a base fare + distance fare is charged. NS has a degressive fare system, where longer distances are cheaper per kilometre.
A public transport pass for train (2nd class), bus, metro and tram OV-Vrij costs €4640,40 / year (2017). It is also valid on the Veolia Transport Fast Ferries Vlissingen-Breskens, the Fast Flying Ferry Amsterdam-IJmuiden, and the Waterbus routes Rotterdam-Dordrecht, Dordrecht-Zwijndrecht, Dordrecht-Papendrecht, and Dordrecht-Sliedrecht. It is not valid on most other ferries, nor on the Thalys. On Intercity Direct the regular supplement is required between Rotterdam and Schiphol only. The card is relatively expensive compared to the Off-Peak Free Pass (in Dutch: Dal Vrij abonnement) for €1118 / year, allowing free journeys with NS and other train companies, starting in the off-peak hours.
For children under 4 no ticket is needed.
For children of 4 years and older, but younger than 12, and also for people of 65 and older, there is a discount of 34% in bus, tram and metro; this discount also applies to the youth aged between 12 until 18 in the province of North-Brabant. In the case of use of an OV-chipkaart, the personal version is required. NS makes a distinction between children of 4-11 travelling with an adult (cheap Railrunner ticket), and those travelling alone or with each other (40% discount on the full fare, no additional discount when already benefiting the 40% off-peak discount).
Apart from NS some more operators offer their own route planner, but these may not take other operators into account. Connexxion's route planner produces a map showing the points of departure, transfer and arrival, connected by straight lines.
Prorail provides a railway map showing all stations, and showing at a point where lines A, B and C meet whether A splits into B and C, or B into A and C etc. NS provides a schematic railway map with all railways for public transport, not showing at a point where lines A, B and C meet whether A splits into B and C, or B into A and C etc., so it does not show whether a train has to reverse direction when going from A to B etc. There is also a dynamic version showing disruptions and a version with indications of routes of train series, with their frequencies and stops.
Common varieties of bus route maps include:
- map showing bus network, with only a selection of stops
- map showing bus network, with all stops
- small map showing the route of a single bus line, with all stops
The first two types also clearly show railways and all railway stations. Highways are shown, but characteristic of these maps is that they are shown unobtrusively. The maps are provided as pdf-file of up to 7MB. For some pdf-viewers on smartphones this may be rather large. In that case a workaround is to create submaps with PrintScreen. Since the regular pdf-viewer allows any choice of zoom level, any selection of the map, and the full-screen modus, this allows the creation of submaps with the maximum of information that fits on the screen.
Some operators only provide dynamic maps which cannot be directly downloaded. A workaround is downloading detail maps one by one (if necessary produced by PrintScreen), but, more than making submaps from a large pdf-file as mentioned above, this is a cumbersome procedure and results in a large collection of small detail maps without convenient navigation between them. (Even more cumbersome but with a better result is to paste groups of these small maps together.)
The route planners do not provide in their results links to any of these route maps, these maps have to be looked up separately.
Public transport timetables are partly available.
The Spoorboekje is a collection of time tables in the form of pdf files, covering a year, but with intermediate renewal when needed (the physical timetable book has been abolished in December 2010). It covers all operators of rail transport in the Netherlands, except those of heritage railways; it gives the departure times (and sometimes arrival times), but not the tracks. For international trains to and from the Netherlands, for the data for the parts abroad only a summary is given.
It provides tables with services in columns, arranged by timetable number and direction (a and b). A train route can involve multiple timetable numbers; an equal train service number indicates that columns in two tables refer to the same train.
For train services which do not operate daily throughout the year there are footnotes explaining the whole set of days of the year on which it operates.
Since a few years, the website treinreiziger.nl gives out a private timetable for the Netherlands. These are available online and at some station shops.
Bus, tram and metro
Pdf files with timetables (sometimes many small files, sometimes a few large ones) are available on the sites of several operators. The tables are arranged similarly to the Spoorboekje, except that for each line and direction there are three separate tables: for Monday-Friday, for Saturday, and for Sunday. Also, they show the times for selected stops only. Some operators only provide for reading the tables on the screen, not for downloading them. A workaround is using PrintScreen, but this is cumbersome if one wants to download many pages. In at least one case  the pdf file is apparently prepared for being printed only, not for reading from the screen: the tables are rotated. Not only are some screens not easy to rotate, also the tables are often wider than high, like a screen, making rotation less desirable. Thus every time the file is loaded the rotate function has to be applied.
Also paper leaflets or small booklets with the timetable of a single line or a few lines are often available free of charge, and larger booklets are often for sale.
- Train routes in the Netherlands
- Railway stations in the Netherlands
- Trains in the Netherlands
- Transportation in Europe
- Concessions; see also nl:Concessies in het Nederlandse openbaar vervoer#Overzicht concessies.
- "Home - De Uithoflijn". uithoflijn.nl. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
- See for example Connexxion-Niteliner Archived 2011-05-25 at the Wayback Machine.
- 9292 route planner in English; 9292 is the brand name of REISinformatiegroep bv, of which all public transport companies in The Netherlands are shareholders. For situations where one does not have internet access and for people who like to speak to a live advisor there is also the premium-rate telephone number 0900 9292 (€ 0,70 p/m); the information can be told, and additionally without extra charge be sent as text message.
- NS route planner: basic version in English, extended version in Dutch
- Not working at the time of writing.
- ProRail railway map Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
- NS railway map Archived 2011-08-09 at the Wayback Machine; it is produced by Carto Studio, see Carto Studio page about maps for public transport
- Dynamic railway map showing disruptions
- Treinreiziger railway map
- Mostly from Carto Studio (see e.g. Carto Studio page about maps for public transport), for example Connexxion map Duin- en Bollenstreek Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.
- For example the common map of Rotterdam and surrounding region for RET and other operators (pdf) and Connexxion map Dordrecht Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, both of Carto Studio. The first uses colors based on properties, such as red lines for frequent bus services, regardless of the operator; the second uses the more common system of different colors for each line of the operator concerned, and grey for lines of other operators. Another example is the downloadable GVB map "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-09. Retrieved 2011-06-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) by F.I.S. Cartografie; like in the first example, colors are based on properties, regardless of the operator, but here without distinction by frequency.
- For example Small map of the route of Connexxion bus line 90, with all stops, obtained at http://connexxion.nl after selecting a bus line, and clicking "Toon routekaart" (show route map). The underlying maps with unspecified producer are of a different style than the bus network maps.
- Systems used:
- Continuously selectable submaps using Adobe Flash Player: HTM map, by Carto Studio (see )
- Discrete submaps: GVU map, by Mapminded  Archived 2011-01-23 at the Wayback Machine. The map is provided in the form of 9×9 detail maps, where each can be reached through the overview map and also from an adjacent detail map.
- For example Example of Connexxion timetable booklet.
- OV-gids Overijssel