Rail transport in the Netherlands

Rail transport in the Netherlands uses a dense railway network which connects nearly all major towns and cities. There are as many train stations as there are municipalities in the Netherlands. The network totals 3,223 route km on 6,830 kilometres of track;[3] a line may run both ways, or two lines may run (one in each direction) on major routes. Three-quarters of the lines have been electrified.[2]

The Netherlands
National railwayNederlandse Spoorwegen
Infrastructure companyRailinfratrust
Major operatorsNS International
Connexxion (Transdev)
Keolis Nederland
Ridership438 million per year
Passenger km17.1 billion per year[1]
Freight36.5 million ton per year
System length
Total3,223 kilometres (2,003 mi)[2]
Double track1,982 kilometres (1,232 mi)
Electrified2,321 kilometres (1,442 mi)[2]
Freight only158.5 km
High-speed125 km
Track gauge
Main1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
High-speed1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
1.5 kV DCMain network
25 kV ACHSL-Zuid, Betuweroute
No. tunnels13
Longest tunnelGroeneharttunnel, 7,160 m (4.45 mi)
No. bridges4,500 (76 movable)
No. stations408

The Dutch rail network primarily supports passenger transport.[4] Rail travel comprises the majority of the distance travelled on Dutch public transport.[5] The national rail infrastructure is managed and maintained by the government agency ProRail, and a number of operators have concessions to operate their trains.[6] The entire network is standard gauge. The Netherlands is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC), and its country code is 84.


Public-transport authorities in the Netherlands issue concessions for groups of lines:[7]

  • Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS; Dutch Railways) – services the main passenger rail network (Hoofdrailnet), including limited night service
  • Arriva Netherlands – services the northern secondary lines around Leeuwarden and Groningen, some eastern secondary lines around Arnhem and Zutphen, the southern secondary lines in Limburg, and one central secondary line
  • Breng – services part of an eastern secondary line with Arriva
  • Keolis Nederland – services two eastern secondary lines (between Zwolle and Kampen and Zwolle and Enschede) and a secondary line (as Syntus) between Zutphen and Oldenzaal
  • Connexxion – services a secondary line between Ede-Wageningen and Amersfoort
  • Qbuzz – services the MerwedeLingelijn between Dordrecht and Geldermalsen
  • NS International - services international trains and domestic high-speed service.

Foreign railway operators with NS authorization service several Dutch stations:

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

A common fare system applies nationwide, although operators tend to use separate tariffs. Although most trains have first- and second-class compartiments, Keolis Nederland and (sometimes) Arriva have second-class compartments only. The Netherlands' largest cargo carrier is DB Schenker; others include ACTS, Crossrail, ERS Railways, Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln, Rail4chem and Veolia Cargo. The network is maintained by the government-owned ProRail, which is responsible for allocating slots to 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.[8] Originally built with a broad gauge of 1,945 mm (6 ft 4 916 in), it was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge) in 1866.[9] Further 19th-century expansion connected the rest of the country. Most of the main lines were electrified during the 20th century, beginning with the Hofpleinlijn in 1908. Since 1922, after a government-commission report, a 1.5 kV DC system with an overhead line has been used.


The network focuses on passenger rail and connects nearly all major cities. A few cities still lack a train station, 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 Betuweroute, which opened in 2007 as the first freight-only route.

The network is well-developed; no extensions are currently planned, although there is a focus on upgrading efficiency and capacity. Some sections may require an increase in maximum speed to 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph).

Major lines have been built in recent years, including the HSL-Zuid high-speed line, the Betuweroute and the Hanzelijn, connecting the province of Flevoland with the rail hub at Zwolle.

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; although conversion of existing electrified lines to 25 kV AC was considered in 1997, 2005 and 2012 at a cost of over €10 billion, a 2015 proposal (revised in 2017) is to convert to 3 kV DC at a 2017 cost of €1 billion. The higher DC voltage would reduce power losses and have faster acceleration above 60 to 70 kilometres per hour (37 to 43 mph), so stopping trains would save seven to 20 seconds per stop.[10]

Speed is generally limited to 130–140 kilometres per hour (81–87 mph), but on most secondary lines the maximum speed is significantly lower. On the HSL-Zuid line, the maximum speed is 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph). Newer lines have been built to permit higher speeds.

Trains are frequent, with one or two trains per hour on lesser lines, two to four trains per hour on rural sections and up to eight or 10 trains per hour in cities. There are two types of trains: stoptreinen (local trains, which Dutch Railways calls "sprinters") and InterCities, with faster long-distance service. An intermediate category (sneltreinen, "fast trains") began being discontinued in 2007, although regional operators continue to use the term. Sneltrein and InterCity service was very similar.

All railways in the Netherlands are 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge),[9] and they have a total length of 3,061 route kilometers (7,028 track kilometers).[6] In 2001, 2,061 kilometres (1,281 mi) were electrified at 1,500 V DC.[11] Only 931 kilometres (578 mi) is single track. The country has 2,589 level crossings, of which 1,598 are protected.[12] The system has 7,071 switch tracks, 12,036 signals, 725 rail viaducts, 455 rail bridges (of which 56 are movable), and 15 tunnels.[12]

ProRail maintains Dutch rail infrastructure (except metros and trams), allocating rail capacity, and traffic control. Capacity supplied by ProRail is used by five public-transport operators and the cargo operators DB Schenker, ERS, ACTS and Rail4Chem. There are also small operators such as the seven-carriage Herik Rail, which can be chartered for parties and meetings.[13]

New lines

Two stations have a bi-level crossing, rather than a level or double junction requiring protection by signals: Amsterdam Sloterdijk and Duivendrecht. Other Dutch line crossings have grade separations.

Non-electrified lines

The following figure is the timetable number:

  • Groningen-Delfzijl (84)
  • Groningen-Roodeschool (83)
  • Groningen-Nieuweschans Grens (85)
  • Leeuwarden-Groningen (80)
  • Leeuwarden-Harlingen (81)
  • Leeuwarden-Stavoren (82)
  • 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)[lower-alpha 1]
  1. Approved for electrification.[17]

Rolling stock

Dutch railways have a variety of rolling stock. Intercity trains have a yellow-and-blue colour scheme, and local trains are blue, white and yellow.

Current fleet

Class Image Type Speed (km/h) Number Cars Operation Built Notes
Top Operating
ICM EMU 180 140 144 3–4 Intercity 1977–present
VIRM 200 140 178 4, 6 1994–present
DDZ 140 50 4, 6 1991–1998 Formerly known as DD-AR, refurbished 2010–2013
Intercityrijtuig Carriage 160 43 n/a 1980–1988 In use by the high-speed Intercity Direct (Amsterdam-Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda) and Intercity International to Brussels
SGM EMU 120 90 2–3 Sprinter 1975–1983
SLT 160 140 131 4, 6 2007–2012
FLIRT 160 140 54 3–4 2016–2017 Used in North Brabant and Limburg
Class 186 (TRAXX) Electric locomotive 160 63 n/a Intercity (international) 2008–present Used to pull/push ICR carriages on the international route to Brussels via the HSL-Zuid
SNG EMU 160 140 118 3–4 Sprinter 2014–2018

Future fleet

Class Image Type Speed (km/h) Number Cars Operation Built Notes
Top Operating
ICNG EMU 200 200 79+20 5, 8 Intercity 2017–2023 Will be put into service in 2021 and run at 200 km/h (120 mph) on high-speed tracks and 160 km/h (99 mph) on regular tracks

20 more ordered for Amsterdam-Brussels service, with adaptations for Belgian network.[18]

The Dutch network has several cross-border sections to Belgium[19] and Germany.[20] Terneuzen is linked to Belgium (freight only), but not to the rest of the Dutch network; Lanaken was at one time connected to Maastricht (also freight only), but not to the Belgian network. Seven cross-border links are electrified. Due to voltage differences, trains must change single-voltage locomotives at Bad Bentheim or Venlo; Belgian 3 kV trains reach Roosendaal and Maastricht with reduced power under the Dutch 1.5 kV. The HSL Zuid has no voltage change at the border. Multi-system train units or diesel traction are also used. Several border crossings are disused or freight-only, and there are no gauge breaks at any of the crossings.

To Germany, north to south:

  • Nieuweschans to Weener – Not electrified; due to a damaged bridge, since 3 December 2015 only traffic to Weener just over the border.
  • Ter Apel – German side never finished; Dutch side dismantled several years after construction.
  • Coevorden to Emlichheim – Not electrified, goods only. German track reactivated for passenger service in 2019 as far as Neuenhaus.
  • Oldenzaal to Bentheim – Voltage change (1.5 kV DC/15 kV AC) in Bentheim station.
  • Glanerbrug to Gronau – Not electrified. At Enschede, the track is no longer connected to the Dutch network.
  • Broekheurne to Alstätte – Dismantled
  • Winterswijk
    • To Borken – Disused, mostly dismantled
    • To Bocholt – Dismantled
  • Zevenaar to Elten – Voltage change (25 kV AC/15 kV AC) on the open track about 1 km southeast of Elten station, allowing only multi-system or diesel trains. (Formerly voltage change 1.5 kV DC/15 kV AC in Emmerich station.)
    • Zevenaar via Elten to Kleve – Dismantled; branched off from the Zevenaar–Emmerich line when border operations were still handled on the Dutch side of the border.
  • Groesbeek to Kranenburg – Disused
  • Gennep to Goch – Dismantled; site of the 1940 German invasion of the Netherlands
  • Venlo
  • Vlodrop-station to DalheimIron Rhine, disused; reactivation has been under study for a long time with little progress.
  • Eygelshoven-Markt to Herzogenrath – Voltage change (1.5 kV DC/15 kV AC) on the open track just inside the Netherlands.
  • Bocholtz to Vetschau – Not electrified; heritage trains only, not connected to the German network.

To Belgium, east to west:

International trains

There are several regional cross-border connections.[21]

Night service

NS offers a limited night service (Nachtnet). On weeknights, it is a U-shaped stretch with hourly service connecting Rotterdam Central, Delft, The Hague Central, Leiden Central, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Central and Utrecht Central (most of the Randstad's large cities and the main airport). Due to the U-shaped route, travel time from the first five stations to Utrecht is longer than during the day. Because the relatively-short distance between stations, no sleeping cars are used. During the weekend, night service is extended to Dordrecht and four cities in the province of North Brabant. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is an additional service between Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Series Route Equipment Frequency
1400/21400 EindhovenTilburgBreda–Dordrecht-Rotterdam Centraal–Delft–Den Haag HS–Leiden Centraal–Schiphol–Amsterdam Centraal – Utrecht Centraal-'s-Hertogenbosch–Eindhoven VIRM Hourly; service between Eindhoven and Rotterdam/Utrecht Friday and Saturday only
21420 's-Hertogenbosch–Tilburg Hourly; Friday and Saturday only

Fares and tickets

A common fare system applies nationwide with NS ticket machines, although individual concessionaires have separate fares. The OV-chipkaart (public-transport card) permits ticket integration and price differentiation. Travellers must be aware of the different operators; for off-peak pass subscribers, a station requiring an operator change may experience delays during peak hours.

Printed paper tickets were discontinued on 9 July 2014. Although ticket machines sell cardboard tickets with an electric chip, there is a €1 surcharge per ticket in addition to the OV-chipkaart fare. The surcharge also applies to tickets sold over the counter.

Passengers without a valid ticket are fined €50[22] in addition to the base fare, unless a ticket machines is out of order or another exemption applies. The fine must to be paid at once, unless the passenger can provide a valid identification card; in that case, they will receive a collection notice by mail. Travellers from abroad beginning Dutch train journey at Schiphol must purchase a ticket before boarding the train.

Payment can be made with all major credit cards at all ticket vending machines and the website.

Off-peak discount passes

Off-peak hours are weekdays from midnight to 06:35, 08:55–16:05 and 18:25–24:00 and all day Saturday and Sunday. With a discount pass, the discount is automatically applied based on the type of discount product and the time of check-in. Discounts include free travel.

A Dal Voordeel (off-peak discount pass) provides a 40-percent discount on travel beginning in off-peak hours. Up to four people can receive the discount if they have a public-transport card. A supplemental fare gives riders over age 60 years free off-peak travel seven days per year. Annual off-peak free passes (Dal Vrij)[23] and unlimited passes are also available, with some restrictions.

Railways in the Dutch Caribbean

Saba, Sint Eustatius and Bonaire (the Caribbean Netherlands) have no railways, and there are no railways on Sint Maarten and Curaçao. Local tram service on Aruba began in 2012, built in cooperation with the Haguish tramway company HTM. Its rolling stock consists of one open, non-articulated single-deck tram and two open double-deckers,[24] running on standard-gauge track. Two industrial narrow-gauge rail lines on the island have been removed.[25]

See also


  1. "Railways, passengers carried (million passenger-km)". worldbank.org. Archived from the original on 17 August 2015.
  2. "CIA World Factbook | Field listing: Railways". www.cia.gov. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 2014. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  3. Hofland, Dick (3 October 2014). "125 jaar Amsterdam Centraal" [Amsterdam Central station 125 years] (in Dutch). Sanoma Media Netherlands. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  4. "Nederlandse spoor zeer intensief gebruikt" [Dutch railtracks intensely used]. www.treinreiziger.nl (in Dutch). Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). 1 March 2009. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  5. Waard, Jan van der; Jorritsma, Peter; Immers, Ben (October 2012). "New Drivers in Mobility: What Moves the Dutch in 2012 and Beyond?" (PDF). Delft, the Netherlands: OECD International Transport Forum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2014-07-07. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. "Kerncijfers".
  7. Concessions; see also nl:Concessies in het Nederlandse openbaar vervoer#Overzicht concessies.
  8. "Nederland komt op stoom". Spoor (in Dutch). Nederlandse Spoorwegen. 2014 (3): 46–47. September 2014.
  9. 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
  10. "Making the case for 3 kv DC" in Railway Gazette International (England): March 2017 (Vol 173 No 3) pages 50–53
  11. Elektrificatie Nederland
  12. "ProRail in cijfers" [ProRail in numbers] (in Dutch). ProRail. 2017. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  13. A complete list of licensed operators can be found at europa.eu Archived 2007-03-19 at the Wayback Machine
  14. "sporenplan w". sporenplan.nl. Archived from the original on 4 May 2001.
  15. "sporenplan o". sporenplan.nl. Archived from the original on 24 July 2001.
  16. (in Dutch) utrechtboog
  17. "Elektrificatie Maaslijn definitief". OV-Magazine.
  18. https://www.bruzz.be/mobiliteit/vanaf-2025-nieuwe-en-snellere-beneluxtreinen-2019-08-06
  19. Thorsten Büker. "border lines – Belgium – Netherlands". bueker.net.
  20. Thorsten Büker. "border lines – Netherlands – Germany". bueker.net.
  21. For an overview of both passenger and freight traffic, see Belgium-Netherlands and Netherlands-Germany.
  22. "Vaststelling bedragen, bedoeld in artikel 48, tweede en zesde lid, Besluit personenvervoer 2000". wetten.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  23. q42. "Season tickets". 9292.nl.
  24. "Aruba trams".
  25. "Auba and Aruban History". Retrieved 2010-12-19.
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