International connections

Our ambition is to make international trains the logical preferred option for distances of up to around 700 km, irrespective of the carrier, and to make night trains the sustainable option for journeys in excess of 700 km. In 2023, we worked towards this ambition by improving travel information before and during international train journeys. Passengers now also have more opportunities to change or cancel tickets online. We also prepared for the arrival of new trains on routes between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
In cross-border train services, NS International works with SNCB, Deutsche Bahn, ÖBB, SBB and Eurostar, connecting the Netherlands with major cities and regions in Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Increase in international journeys 

International train travel has been growing in popularity for years. In 2023, the number of international tickets sold was up 15% compared with 2022. International trains are becoming more crowded as more and more passengers want to travel sustainably. This is why. last year, we focused particularly on ensuring travel comfort and increasing the safety of passengers and staff. In doing so, we focused on improving self-service and travel support on international trains. This also meant that we did not launch any new train connections or add destinations to our booking system in 2023. In addition, we made seat reservation on ICE International journeys mandatory between 17 June and 18 August 2023. We also anticipated high passenger numbers on the IC Brussels by letting passengers with cheap Early Bird tickets choose a specific train. This is not a seat reservation, but it does ensure that passengers can only take the train for which they have purchased a ticket.


Following the merger of Thalys and Eurostar, announced in 2019, it was revealed in early 2023 that the two carrier brands would continue as Eurostar from 1 October 2023. After 27 years, the Thalys brand now operates services to London, Brussels and Paris under this new name. The and websites have merged into the new website and app. The underlying sales systems have been integrated.

In June 2023, it emerged that the rebuilding of Amsterdam Central Station for the purposes of the High-Frequency Rail Programme (PHS) would disable the secure departure process for Eurostar passengers from Amsterdam to London for some time. This is undesirable both for passengers and for the development of international train travel. All parties involved (Eurostar, NS, ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management) spent months looking for a way to continue secure Eurostar departures without interruption. They did not find a solution. From June 2024, therefore, the terminal will close for about six months – which is less time than originally planned. However, it will still be possible to travel to the UK from the Netherlands, with transfer and check-in and border controls at Brussels South station. For passengers travelling from London to Amsterdam, three direct connections remain.

Travel time reduction, capacity expansion and enhanced travel comfort on Eurostar services from Amsterdam Central station to London and vice versa is part of ‘Services to boost cross-border rail’, an EU pilot initiated by DG Move.
The Eurostar’s service quality is affected by the quality of the HSL at Rijpwetering. Due to soil conditions, speed restrictions were in place all year, affecting both the Eurostar and IC Brussels. It is not clear how long these restrictions will last. Since the end of January 2024, speed restrictions have been in place at several places on the HSL due to cracks in bridges and viaducts.

IC Brussels 

Last year, we prepared for the introduction of the IC Brussels with new trains from Alstom (ICNG-B). Starting in the autumn, several train tests were carried out on the Dutch and Belgian sections of the high-speed line. The ICNG-B is authorised in the Netherlands and Belgium. In August, we announced that, together with SNCB, we intend to offer faster (200 km/h instead of 160 km/h) and more frequent (from 16x a day to 32x a day) services between the Netherlands and Brussels. We will then run 16 times a day from Amsterdam to Brussels with 45 minutes less travel time, and 16 times a day from Rotterdam to Brussels. We are recruiting new staff for the doubling of the frequency of the IC Brussels. In doing so, we are committed to a mix of internal advancement and new staff.   

 IC Berlin 

The travel time for IC Berlin services between Amsterdam Central Station and Berlin has been reduced by 30 minutes, effective 10 December 2023. This reduction was made possible by deploying a new locomotive, adjusting the timetable (which included reducing the number of stops) and improving the infrastructure at Oldenzaal. We acquired Vectron locomotives last year that made the locomotive changeover at Bad Bentheim redundant. Since 10 December, the IC Berlin has had an additional first-class coach to replace the outdated bar coach. In 2023 NS, DB and Talgo examined and coordinated the authorisation process for new carriages (purchased by DB) in the Netherlands.


NS and DB are making every effort to speed up the replacement of the current ICE trainsets. DB’s new ICE BR 408 has been operating in Germany since 2023, and the first tests for authorisation in the Netherlands have been conducted. The introduction of new ICEs represents a significant step forward in passenger comfort, improves operational performance and will ultimately ensure a more reliable timetable. 

Night trains 

Together with its partner ÖBB, NS operates two night trains: via Germany to Innsbruck/Vienna and via Germany to Zurich. The operational performance of night trains came under pressure in 2023 due to large-scale trackworks in Germany. In 2023, night trains remained quite popular. 

Regional cross-border transport  

NS worked with its partners Arriva and SNCB to create the Liège-Maastricht-Aachen three-countries connection by December 2023. Due to delays in the authorisation of Arriva trains, this target was not achieved. The three-countries connection is now expected to be launched in the first half of 2024.

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