NS International has partnered with NMBS, Deutsche Bahn, ÖBB, SBB, Thalys and Eurostar, connecting the Netherlands with major cities and regions in Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Our aim is to make the train the logical preferred option for distances of up to approx. 700 km and the night train the obvious sustainable option for journeys in excess of 700 km. This benefits both the environment and the economy, as trains produce relatively low carbon emissions per passenger and excellent accessibility by rail encourages investment and attracts businesses to the Netherlands. We are working to achieve those ambitions by ensuring fast connections for Dutch passengers to high-speed rail networks in neighbouring countries, by increasing frequencies and reducing travel times, by adding new destinations and by making it easier for passengers to choose the train for international journeys.
Connecting to high-speed rail networks in neighbouring countries
In 2021 we met with several regional, national and European parties to discuss the need to improve the Amsterdam–Duisburg route by expanding the infrastructure and reducing travel times. The result of these efforts is that this route is now part of the EU's ‘corridor approach’ pilot to introduce improvements.
Increasing the frequency and travel speed
In the past year, NS started several test programmes for the ICNG, which is suitable for Belgium. We will continue these tests in 2022, to ensure we can increase the frequency and reduce travel times of services to Belgium in the longer term.
Thanks to the launch of two night train connections in 2021, we have added several new destinations to our network: the Nightjet to Vienna/Innsbruck and the Nightjet to Zürich (which began on 25 May and 12 December respectively). The study into possibilities for an Intercity connection between the Randstad conurbation and the German city of Aachen in 2025 is ongoing.
Facilitating international train journeys
Since early 2021, passengers who booked their tickets with NS International receive personalised and real-time travel information before their journey. In addition, they now also receive travel notifications throughout their train journey via the NS International app. We have also added locations in Italy, France and the Czech Republic to the destinations that passengers can book via our website. In addition, we have launched a pilot on extending the booking period for Eurostar and IC Brussels. Customers can now book their tickets up to one year in advance. The pilot runs until well into 2022.
European Year of Rail
The European Commission proclaimed 2021 the European Year of Rail to stress the contribution of rail transport to the climate targets of the European Green Deal. In this connection, the Netherlands had the honour of welcoming the Connecting Europe Express last October. This is an initiative of DG Move and CER, a community of all major transport companies in Europa, including NS. Together with its partners, NS had compiled an extensive discussion programme for all European stakeholders, with a particular focus on two themes: how to collectively ensure that the Netherlands is connected as soon as possible to the German high-speed network, and how to design more user-friendly booking options for train journeys.
Climate Train to Glasgow
More than 500 passengers travelled from the Netherlands to COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in a special Climate Train, a collaboration between Avanti West Coast, Eurostar, NS, ProRail and Youth for Sustainable Travel. On the occasion of this special Climate Train journey, the partners signed a statement for COP26 in which they commit to remain the most sustainable type of transport and called for further support for international rail connections so as to accelerate the growth of sustainable travel. This initiative was undertaken within the context of the European Year of Rail.
Market exploration for international rail connections
In 2021, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management conducted a market exploration to study the extent to which international connections that are currently part of the main rail network franchise can be expected to be operated under ‘open access’ conditions from 2025. The report was sent to the House of Representatives at the of 2021. The former state secretary will leave it to the new government (Rutte IV) to determine the further strategy for the international rail dossier.