NS from 2024: More trains, but also higher prices and more delays
It’s been a big week for Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS): as parliament debates plans for the rail operator to raise ticket prices during rush hour, it has been announced that the company is doubling the number of services between the Netherlands and Brussels, but is losing its exclusive right to international rail connections. Meanwhile, planned construction work means that in 2024, travellers will not only face higher ticket prices - they’ll also face more delays.
Dutch government and NS sign contract for 2025-2033
On Monday, State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management Vivianne Heijnen revealed details about the future of NS’ contract with the Dutch government. The deal specifies which routes and services will be operated by NS, sets guidelines and goals for the rail operator, and outlines investments for the years 2025 to 2033.
As part of the deal, NS has committed to further expanding rail services from 2025 by increasing the number of trains on key routes between Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport, Haarlem and Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, and Hilversum and Utrecht. The company will also launch the new AirportSprinter, which will ensure that Sprinters run between Amsterdam Centraal and Schiphol every 7,5 minutes.
“I think it is important that good accessibility by public transport is well organised throughout the Netherlands,” Heijnen said in a statement. “It should not matter whether you live in Amsterdam, Breda, Beilen or Wolvega…I think it is important that trains not only run between the major cities, but also to areas where fewer passengers board.”
More international rail services from the Netherlands
In addition to expanding national services between Dutch cities and towns, NS has confirmed that, together with the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS), it is doubling the number of trains running between the Netherlands and Brussels from 16 to 32 a day from 2025. Furthermore, the rail operators will also deploy faster trains, cutting around 45 minutes off the travel time.
While some of NS’ international services are being expanded, the company will no longer have the monopoly on most services running to cities outside of the Netherlands. Instead, the government wants to offer “more choice for the international traveller”. As explained by the government, “connections to Berlin, London, Paris and Frankfurt will no longer be included in the contract with NS.”
Other international operators will therefore be granted the opportunity to manage more services between the Netherlands and European cities. This should, in turn, result in more international rail connections from the Netherlands.
NS raising ticket prices in 2024 and 2026
While NS and the Dutch government are making plans for the future, the rail operator continues to face significantly lower passenger numbers than before the coronavirus pandemic. With NS transporting around 200.000 fewer passengers every day in 2023 compared to 2019, the government has committed to a subsidy of 13 million euros a year. The company is also investigating options for setting higher fares on popular routes during rush hour - a plan that has already been approved by the caretaker cabinet, and is being debated by parliament on August 15.
“I want a reliable timetable that travellers can count on,” says Heijnen. "For this, it is necessary that the government will also step in in the coming years, otherwise there will be far fewer trains than is currently the case and travellers will be the victims. I do not want that."
In addition to funding from the government, NS has been granted permission to increase ticket prices by 3,5 percent in 2024 and 2026. These changes are coming as Heijnen warns that planned construction works on the Dutch rail network - especially around Amsterdam - will lead to the disruption of national rail services from next year.
Thumb: Lea Rae via Shutterstock.com.