Main rail network franchise 2025–2033

In late 2023, NS was officially awarded the franchise for the main rail network by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Thanks to this decision, we can continue to offer sustainable rail journeys until 2033 and the Netherlands will retain a strong and coherent rail network. The franchise starts on 1 January 2025. NS is grateful for the trust placed in it. We regard this as an incentive for the over 20,000 NS employees to live up to all expectations. We aspire to offer more than 1 million passengers a comfortable, sustainable and reliable journey every single day.

NS ensured that the Central Works Council (COR) was closely involved in finalising the agreement between NS and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. We went through an intensive process with a dedicated Central Works Council committee, periodically involving the entire Central Works Council. The Central Works Council provided the capacity, thinking and flexibility that such a process requires. Partly for this reason, NS was able to follow a constructive process to reach a business decision.

The Supervisory Board also had a special, temporary committee during the establishment of the new franchise. The committee was regularly updated by the Executive Board on progress and bottlenecks and assisted the Executive Board by acting as an adviser, touchstone and challenger.

Details of the new franchise


The 2024 timetable is the foundation for the schedules that NS will run during the new franchise period. We intend to gradually expand the 2024 timetable based on changes in passenger demand. The franchise includes more night trains and a higher level of service at many stations. We are also running double the number of trains to Brussels with Belgian rail operator SNCB, increasing from 16 to 32. From 2025, the travel time between Amsterdam and Brussels will be reduced by 45 minutes.

From 2025, the AirportSprinter will run eight times per hour between Amsterdam Central Station and Schiphol/Hoofddorp. Other examples of agreed improvements: more trains during off-peak hours between Apeldoorn and Deventer, Intercity trains at 180 km/h on the Hanze Line, third and fourth hourly Intercity services between Breda and Eindhoven and fifth and sixth hourly Sprinter services during peak hours between Hilversum and Utrecht. As soon as the infrastructure is in place, we will launch an Eindhoven-Aachen Intercity service.

International connections to Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Paris and Vienna, among other cities, are no longer part of the new main rail network franchise. NS has notified these open access connections to the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and would like to continue operating them in partnership with DB, Eurostar Group, SNCB, ÖBB and SBB. We are waiting to see which connections will eventually be granted to us.

Performance agreements

A number of the current performance indicators (PIs) have been retained in the new franchise, but for some others the level of ambition has been raised. For instance, the Punctuality PI has been tightened and the Seating Availability PI now distinguishes between peak and off-peak hours. For these two PIs, NS also reports on the five best and five worst-performing arrival stations.

Avoided CO2 emissions, a new performance indicator, shows how many kilotonnes of CO2 emissions have been avoided by passengers travelling by train instead of by car. Our own emissions are deducted from this. This PI is a measure of the extent to which train travel contributes to the government’s climate targets. NS has undertaken to avoid at least 534 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions per year. As regard overall customer satisfaction, we have agreed that from 2025, NS should achieve an average mark of at least 7.5 for its level of service every year.


NS was keen to include in the franchise the possibility of setting the price of a train ticket based on time of day, distance, expected level of crowding, travel class and train speed. We believe this is an effective instrument to spread passengers. Under our proposal, train fares for average passengers are lower: affordability is our primary objective. For 80 per cent of passengers, train tickets would become cheaper. While some journeys would become more expensive, others would become cheaper. Our proposal was not intended to increase our profits. There appeared to be no political support for this new approach. However, peak-hour congestion remains an urgent issue and NS will continue to engage with stakeholders on options to spread passengers in other ways.

Working together

One way of ensuring the success of the new main rail network franchise is to forge partnerships. Along with its key partners, NS is drawing up a cooperation strategy covering door-to-door travel, timetables, infrastructure investment, travel information and regional mobility issues, among other matters. NS will present the results of this strategy in the Transport Plan (Vervoerplan).

Grant instead of fee

The franchise agreements were signed at a financially challenging time. NS has been struggling with lower passenger numbers since COVID-19. Instead of a fee paid by NS, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will pay a subsidy of €13 million per year over the term of the new franchise. Our shareholder, the Ministry of Finance, has accepted a lower expected return from NS. NS, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Finance all worked together to bring the new franchise into being. However, the new franchise will demand a lot from NS, both operationally and financially.

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