Supply and demand
Over the next few decades, the Netherlands will be facing major economic, social, mobility and sustainability challenges. The world around us is changing fast. Urbanisation will increase, not just in the Randstad conurbation but also in other urban areas such as Eindhoven, Arnhem-Nijmegen and Groningen. Healthy, pleasant living environments will come under increasing pressure. A shortfall of 600,000 homes is forecast for the period to 2025. Amsterdam is predicted to grow to one million residents by 2030 and Utrecht’s population will increase from 339,000 now to more than 400,000 in 2030. Good connections to public transport must be part and parcel of the major task of building new homes for the Netherlands. The demand for mobility will continue to grow, driven by greater population density and scarcity of land. The effect is intensified by the growth of hubs such as Schiphol, the port of Rotterdam and the IT hubs concentrated in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Groningen. The Randstad conurbation is in danger of becoming clogged up due to the growing, concentrated demand for mobility, and problems are developing at various points in the mobility system in the form of increased congestion and delays when travelling by road, problems with emissions and space being taken up in densely populated areas, and crowded trains. Quieter areas have their own challenges as they face pressure on the supply of public mobility solutions. Nevertheless, it is important for communities that proper access should be maintained to these parts of the Netherlands and the mobility that is so important for everybody should be on offer here too. That requires innovative, smart and tailored solutions.
Modes of transport
Technological developments digitisation, automation and robotics are progressing fast. The developments reinforce one another. Take the dramatic rise in mobile networks and devices and cheap Internet services, for example, or Big Data and self-learning systems (artificial intelligence). The developments are also affecting the mobility landscape. New forms of transport on the roads and railways (electric vehicles, self-driving cars, demand-driven transport) will need to become seamless parts of the mobility system as a whole. At the same time, more and more new players are entering the mobility market, covering aspects that include payments, journey information and the journey to and from the station. What is more, younger generations in particular have a different attitude to mobility, with a shift from ownership to usage. NS remains keen to help meet the challenge of creating good connections that match the demands of passengers, companies and institutions.
Transition to sustainable mobility
Solutions for improvements in mobility will need to become increasingly sustainable, for example by using sustainable energy sources instead of gas and coal. There is increasing awareness of climate and air quality (zero emissions). A transition to alternative, more sustainable forms of transport is essential if greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced and the living environment made pleasanter and healthier. Society’s requirements are changing for cross-border travel, with sustainable travel by train preferred to air travel. NS provides sustainable mobility to more than 9 million passengers in the Netherlands every year, thereby assisting the economic development and accessibility of the cities and the regions, as well as helping the Netherlands achieve its climate objectives. Since January 2017, our trains have been running entirely on wind power; we are the first country in the world where all the electric trains run on new wind power. NS also participates in the mobility consultative body for the climate agreement.
Implementation of the Long-Term Rail Agenda
In response to increasing mobility, NS is working on the agreements in the Long-Term Rail Agenda heading towards 2028, together with its partners, which include ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. One aspect of this is the High-Frequency Rail Transport Programme. Running Intercity trains six times an hour on the key routes will lead to a substantial increase in the transport capacity. We have taken a significant step in this direction with the increase in the frequency of the Amsterdam-Eindhoven Intercity trains as of the 2018 timetable. The increased frequency has led to growth in the number of passengers along this corridor, with increased reliability, a greater chance of finding a seat and higher customer satisfaction scores. NS will be focusing on implementing the Long-Term Rail Agenda further in the next few years. NS and ProRail have conducted a joint study to see which are the next corridors that would benefit from an increase in the number of Intercity trains per hour. This identified the Schiphol-Utrecht-Nijmegen corridor as one of the corridors with a high level of urgency. Preparations have now started for an increase in the frequency as of the timetable for 2022.
Preparing for further growth with a vision on mobility
Even after the implementation of the Long-Term Rail Agenda, the Netherlands will still face sizeable economic, social and sustainability challenges. NS is collaborating with a number of other parties on a shared long-term vision of mobility in the Netherlands. We are doing this in part in the vision of the future for public transport, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and involves all players in the public transport sector: national and local authorities, ProRail, and carriers including NS. NS is one of the initiators of the Mobility Alliance, which combines organisations from the bicycle, car, freight, ferry, bus, tram, metro and rail transport sectors. The Mobility Alliance is focusing on an ambitious plan with a vision of mobility in the period to 2030. It has started pilot projects on paying for usage.
The connecting theme in these visions of mobility is that the Netherlands needs an integrated mobility system with a strong public transport system. Key elements in this are a faster and more convenient door-to-door journey and better international connections from elsewhere with the Netherlands. NS is working hard on this with its partners (other carriers, market players and national, regional and urban authorities). We are doing this for example by optimising connections between various modes of transport and improving transport to and from the station, for instance with an ever better journey planner, journey information, good bicycle storage facilities and OV-fiets. This is how NS is both helping keep the Netherlands accessible and make it more sustainable.
Developments in the regulation of the Dutch railway market
Over the next few years, three developments will affect the setup of the Dutch railway market and consequently the position and role of NS: decisions by the Dutch cabinet about market regulation on the Dutch railways, the decision by the cabinet to change the status of ProRail, and EU decision-making concerning the Fourth Railway Package. NS is monitoring these developments closely. Regarding the conversion of ProRail into an autonomous administrative authority, the combined passenger and freight transport carriers (including NS, shipping companies, passenger association Rover and the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers) have all expressed major concerns about the potential consequences. Performance on the tracks has improved markedly in recent years, largely thanks to good collaboration between ProRail and the carriers. There is concern that ProRail will be preoccupied with its internal organisation over the next while and that this will put pressure on the results for both passengers and freight. There is also still a considerable lack of clarity because the legislation proposes making the arrangements for many tasks at a later date in secondary regulations. Finally, the new situation will be highly complex from a legal perspective. It is not yet clear how various important aspects will be handled. For instance, it is unclear what will happen to existing contractual and partnering relationships with transport carriers and contractors on the railways. The position taken by NS is that all developments must be geared to meeting the mobility challenges mentioned above that the Netherlands will be facing in the next few decades; that means we are giving priority to passengers, passengers and passengers.