|Type||State-owned naamloze vennootschap|
|Marjan Rintel (CEO)|
|Products||Rail transport, rail construction, services|
Number of employees
|Parent||State of the Netherlands|
Abellio Greater Anglia (60%)
East Midlands Railway
West Midlands Trains (70%)
Railway tracks in the Netherlands
|Dates of operation||1938–present|
|Predecessor||Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij (HSM)|
Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen (SS)
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS; Dutch: [?ne:d?rl?nts? 'spo:r?e:(n)] ; English: "Dutch Railways") is a Dutch state-owned company, the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands. Founded in 1938, NS provides rail services on the Dutch main rail network (Dutch: hoofdrailnet). The Dutch rail network is the busiest in the European Union, and third busiest in the world after Switzerland and Japan.
The rail infrastructure is maintained by network manager ProRail, which was split off from NS in 2003. Freight services, formerly operated by NS Cargo, merged with DB Schenker in 2000. NS runs 4,800 scheduled domestic trains a day, serving 1.1 million passengers. Also, NS provides international rail services from the Netherlands to other European destinations and carries out concessions on some foreign rail markets through its subsidiary Abellio.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (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 had already been intensively cooperating as early as 1917. There were both economic and ideological reasons for the cooperation.
As a result of World War I, the Dutch economy had declined causing HSM and SS to fall from profitability. Given their national importance, allowing them to slip into bankruptcy was not considered acceptable. While remaining independent companies, HSM and SS improved overall efficiency by cooperatively integrating their operations.
The Government of the Netherlands further supported HSM and SS by purchasing shares in both firms. In 1938, the authorities merged the two companies to form the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. In the process, the Government of the Netherlands bought all remaining shares, yet never nationalised the company. Therefore, Nederlandse Spoorwegen remained, and still is owned by the Dutch Government.
During World War II the NS remained an independent company, but was forced to do the Germans' bidding; 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 1944-45, 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 a good time for the company, it started to decline in the 1960s, like most other railways around the world. Not only did the NS suffer from the competition of the car and other modes of transport, but it also suffered from a loss of income when natural gas started to replace coal as the main fuel in power stations 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.
In the early 1990s, the Government of the Netherlands 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 neoliberal reforms of the 1980s, it was also considered not done to award generic subsidies to companies. The authorities decided on the verzelfstandiging (corporatisation) 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 authorities 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 of the Netherlands 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 government plans for the company's commercial operation, 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 route managers got de facto control over the operation, but they were dependent of a different organ in the company.
The freight sector NS Cargo became part of Deutsche Bahn after its merger with Railion in 2000 (later into DB Cargo). These reforms were never much of a success and left the company in an uncontrollable state. The 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 of the reforms of the late 1990s 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 2025 the NS holds the concessions for main lines.
The timetable change on 10 December 2006 saw the most routes to approximate the symmetry time in clock-face schedules to the one used in most other European countries. Previously, this was different at minute (46 seconds) and led to problems by cross-border trains. In August 2015, former Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Roger van Boxtel was named CEO of Nederlandse Spoorwegen.
NS has been involved in various controversies.
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 five cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven) as well as some smaller cities (Nijmegen, Amersfoort, Arnhem, 's-Hertogenbosch, Dordrecht and Leiden). From December 2008 train frequencies were increased on following services: Arnhem-Nijmegen (8 trains per hour) and The Hague-Rotterdam (12 trains per hour), Amsterdam Centraal-Hoofddorp (16 trains per hour). A night train service was added between Utrecht, Gouda and Rotterdam. Trains usually run between 5:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. although there is also a night line which connects major cities in the Randstad throughout the night, as well as in weekends also some major cities in North Brabant.
In addition to its domestic services, NS is also a partner (along with Stena Line and its British railway company Abellio Greater Anglia) in the Dutchflyer service. NS has also entered into a partnership with KLM to operate services on the new HSL-Zuid under the name Intercity Direct towards Breda and Brussels. Intercity Direct is part of NS International; other services such as Thalys to France and Intercity-Express to Germany and Switzerland are also part of NS International.
The hoofdrailnet is the official core internal passenger railnetwork of the Netherlands. Currently NS has a concession until 1 January 2015 to provide all passenger services on this network, except that on some stretches there is an overlap with lines for which other operators have a concession. Some of the most notable of these stretches are those from Elst railway station to Arnhem Centraal railway station, where NS shares tracks with Arriva, and further on to Arnhem Velperpoort. Here the tracks are shared by three operators, as Breng, ultimately part of Transdev, operates there in addition to the two previously mentioned operators. Officially the overlaps do not constitute competition on the same lines.
The concession was free of charge until 2009, and costs an increasing amount since then, up to EUR30 million for the year 2014. The concession distinguishes main stations and other stations. Except on New Year's Eve, the main stations have to be served at least twice an hour per direction from 6 a.m. to midnight and the other stations at least once an hour. Exceptions are possible until the start of the next concession.
The next concession period is 2025-2035. For the 2015-2025 concession, requirements include: for every train service where on average more than one-third of the passengers travel longer than 30 minutes, a train with a toilet is used, every newly ordered train has a toilet and in 2025 every train has to have a toilet. Currently trains on the hoofdrailnet without a toilet include the NS SGMm numbers 2111 to 2125, the so-called classical "Sprinter" and the Sprinter Lighttrain (SLT, these trains are being converted periodically to have a toilet on board).
NS provides three kinds of train service:
There are also two former train categories, which are now used only by private operators:
The OV-chipkaart is the common form of fare payment. Single or return tickets, used by incidental travellers and tourists, are available at ticket machines and service counters at a surcharge of EUR1. They are a disposable use-once only. It is possible to buy e-tickets online on the Dutch Railways website. E-tickets can also be purchased on the Belgian NMBS/SNCB B-Europe website. For long term use season tickets are available.
Travelling with these cards and tickets, one has to register starting a journey (check in) and ending it (check out) at the destination. One always has to travel away from the point of one's latest check-in. Thus, in the case of a voluntary detour, one has to check out and check in to register starting a new journey.
Travellers need to be aware of the various companies other than the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. One needs to check out with one company and check in with another on some stations. There is common tariff system with four smaller passenger train operating companies: Keolis Nederland and Connexxion in the centre and the east, Veolia on the 'Maaslijn' and 'Heuvellandlijn' in the south east, Arriva in the north and most of the east of the country and on the 'Merwede-Lingelijn' (from Dordrecht to Geldermalsen).
NS defines off-peak hours as weekdays 09:00-16:00 and 18:30-06:30, and on Saturdays and Sundays the whole day. Therefore, full fare is required on weekdays 06:30-09:00 and 16:00-18:30. With an OV-chipkaart that allows for a discount or free travel one is automatically granted the discount or free travel at the time of checking in. There is a number of season tickets available that suit individual preferences.
The NS corporate logo was designed in 1968 by Gert Dumbar and Gert-Jan Leuvelink both of the graphic design company Tel Design. Introduced in that same year, it replaced an earlier design which had been used since 1946. The logo, pervasive within trains and railway stations in the Netherlands, plays a significant part in Nederlandse Spoorwegen's signage, promotions, advertising and graphic design.
The logo usually appears in blue or black on a dark yellow or white background. Since its introduction, NS livery has also had this same distinct dark yellow or white colour. The logo is a widened letter 'N' and a sideways (reversed) 'S'-shape. The two arrows in the logo represent the train's movement, and the two lines in the middle represent the track.
In dealing with the general public, these distinctions are not made and the terms Nederlandse Spoorwegen and NS are used.
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 (tickets less than EUR2.30) 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, the full ticket price after a delay of one hour or more. That 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. The system has improved for holders of some rail passes. 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. 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. Now, the RailTender service primarily operates in the intercity trains on the trajectory between Utrecht and Zwolle/Eindhoven, Zwolle and Almere, 's-Hertogenbosch and Nijmegen, Apeldoorn and Amersfoort, Rotterdam and Breda/Roosendaal/Antwerp
In 2018, NS saw its number of passengers increase by nearly 3 percent. On average, 1.3 million people took the train on a weekday, 100.000 more than in 2016 and the over 250 NS train stations are becoming increasingly crowded.
The top 10 busiest train stations in the Netherlands by travelers per working day in 2018: