Together, we are making the Netherlands accessible in a sustainable manner – for everyone. That is the mission of NS, and the compass for our strategy for 2020-2025 and subsequent years. The strategy, ‘Making the Netherlands accessible in a sustainable manner – for everyone', focuses on the transition of NS towards a broadly oriented mobility company.
With our trains and stations serving as the backbone of our business, we ensure smooth and comfortable door-to-door journeys for all our passengers. The success of this transition depends on our effective collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, ProRail, other carriers, non-central authorities and other partners. Internally we operate as a single, united NS wherever that is possible. Our strategy enables us to deliver world-class mobility with due regard for our responsibilities towards our local environment. Always accessible, always affordable and always sustainable.
Just after we had adopted our strategy, in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, forcing us to adapt the implementation of that strategy. Our priority is to make passengers return to our trains. At the same time, if we are to emerge from this crisis in good financial health, we will need to adapt our organisation to the changed circumstances. This means that we must, as soon as possible, re-establish a financial balance that enables NS to continue investing independently in its future range of services for passengers and society. According to our strategy, in times of crisis and in the future, our world-class operation is the foundation of our business.
Smart ways of attracting passengers in trains and stations
The uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the freedom of travel, resulting in falling passenger numbers and revenues. We want to give our passengers the confidence that our trains and stations are safe environments. This is why it is important for us to respond to changes in passenger wishes: less crowding, more hygiene, flexibility at all times and control of the journey from door to door.
To achieve all that we have launched a major effort to find smart ways of attracting passengers. For example, we have joined forces with policymakers, employers and educational institutions to improve the spread of passengers across peak hours, off-peak hours and days of the week. NS's contribution to this effort is to ensure high-quality travel information, also about crowding levels, for example using Treinwijzer and early reservation options.
To emerge from this crisis in good shape, NS will have to become an agile and financially healthy company. This is why we focus on measures that will permanently reduce our costs. In addition, we are working to promote a long-term change in culture and behaviour. A willingness to be more audacious, speak our minds, call colleagues to account and embrace change will help us focus on results and respond to changes more quickly.
Abellio must contribute to Dutch operations
One dominant theme in 2021 was the restructuring of Abellio in Germany. We restructured Abellio's operations in 2021 (continuing into 2022, in part) particularly in Germany, in a joint process with our local clients. It remains our objective to ensure that Abellio's operations contribute to our Dutch operations via cross-border connections and improved links with European cities, in the interest of Dutch passengers, and that they also contribute to the financial result.
Building the future
Despite the low passenger numbers and the effect of that on our financial position, we continue to build for the future. While it may be hard to imagine at this time, from 2026 onwards we expect to be welcoming more passengers than in our peak year 2019. Recent forecasts even assume 18% to 40% growth in the number of passenger kilometres by 2040 (Integrated Mobility Analysis - Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management).
We team up with our partners to absorb this growth. For example, we have joined forces with other carriers and mobility providers in the Mobility Alliance to create the best mobility system and highlight the required investments and policy frameworks, in collaboration with government bodies. We also help explore ways in which other spatial challenges are connected to NS and our role in society. This is reflected, for instance, in our desire to be part of the solution to the housing construction challenge.
Improving the rail network: nationally and internationally
In the years ahead, we will continue improving our rail network by introducing multiple ultra-frequent services (every 10 minutes) and New Generation Intercity (ICNG) trains. We are also preparing the launch of the Airport Sprinter between Amsterdam CS and Hoofddorp to increase our capacity on one of the busiest routes in the country. In addition to improving the network within the Netherlands, we have international ambitions: we want to increase both the speed and frequency of services between European capitals and add new destinations.
Developing a broad range of mobility options
We are responding to evolving passenger expectations. Our customers increasingly expect us to provide seamless door-to-door journeys with all the associated facilities – from planning and booking the journey and paying the fare, the trip to the station, transfers and arrival at the final destination through to the provision of alternatives when the train is not the ideal option. To meet these wishes we are developing a top-class mobility app that offers passengers the best and most personalised options available. After all, every journey starts with NS.
We will also continue to develop our own range of physical mobility options. This includes investments in the availability of public transport bicycles (OV-fiets) both in existing and new locations. We are streamlining the check-in and check-out processes in bicycle parking facilities and making our P+R locations even more user-friendly by installing number plate recognition technology and charging points.
Realising world-class stations
We continue to realise world-class stations. Our stations serve as mobility hubs to facilitate seamless transfers, but also offer excellent facilities where passengers and residents can meet. We are examining options for new facilities at the stations and a range of retail services that is more in line with our passengers’ changing needs. We want our stations to be safe, dynamic and meaningful centres of activity in their local communities. This is why we are also involved in area development projects aimed at enhancing the potential of station districts for residential and other functions.
Innovation, digitalisation and data-driven operations
In order to realise optimal digital customer experiences and remain agile in a rapidly evolving world, we aim to accelerate innovation, digitalisation and data-driven work processes. More efficient utilisation of our resources and more effective coordination of supply and demand will enable us to keep the railway system affordable. For more information about our innovations, click here.
Increasing the social impact of NS
Alongside these ambitions, we also want to increase our social impact. NS is an essential link in the Dutch approach to tackle climate change. The more passengers opt for the train, the more carbon emissions we avoid. This contributes to the ‘Fit for 55’ package of the European Commission. For example, we are increasing the appeal of international rail travel by improving the interoperability of the European core network and by streamlining the booking process for international train tickets. In addition, we are making our own chain more sustainable by adopting zero-emission, green and circular business practices wherever this is possible. However, our impact extends much further than the climate alone. We aspire to be a company of and for the Netherlands as a whole: a business that reflects all parts of society, where everybody feels at home and nobody feels excluded.