Our strategy

On 11 September 1883, Vincent van Gogh disembarked at Hoogeveen station to work in the province of Drenthe. Exactly 140 years later, NS handed out sunflowers at the train stations of Assen and Hoogeveen.

'Together, we are making the Netherlands accessible in a sustainable manner – for everyone.’ That is our mission, a mission that serves as the compass for our strategy for 2020-2025 and beyond.

Central to our current strategy is the transition of NS to a broad mobility company. With our trains and stations serving as the backbone of our business, we aim to ensure a smooth and comfortable door-to-door journey for all our passengers. This allows them to participate in society in a sustainable way. Our stations are hubs of mobility in a pleasant environment. With our NS App, we offer passengers an easy, attractive and personalised way to plan, book and pay for their journeys. To become a broad-based mobility company, we collaborate with mobility and partial mobility providers, such as TIER bikes and Check scooters. We use innovations to become more agile and data-driven. By sharing data, we can offer passengers multiple travel modalities that connect seamlessly.

Major challenges

We have faced developments in recent years that require agility and continuous adjustment of our organisation. The COVID-19 crisis caused an unprecedented drop in passenger numbers, and travel patterns have changed permanently since then: we are welcoming fewer travellers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while peak hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays are much busier compared to other weekdays than before. Weekends are also busier. This leaves NS with an even greater challenge of spreading passengers.

High inflation – combined with a scarcity of raw materials and volatile energy prices – has increased our costs. In addition, budgetary pressures are higher due to increases in maintenance and investments for track upgrades. These financial developments are making it harder for us to keep train fares affordable.
Attracting new staff in a persistently tight labour market remains a challenge. In particular, demand for technically skilled staff is high, making it difficult for us to find mechanics, for instance. Furthermore, public safety on trains and at the stations is deteriorating, partly due to a general decline in standards of public behaviour.

Other challenges include the large number of planned works in the coming years and our financial position: we have been posting negative operating results for years and are facing rising inflation, which we only partially pass on in ticket prices.

Getting the basics in order

NS has anticipated these developments and is fully committed to addressing the consequences of the challenges they bring. For instance, we aim to provide a robust service of superior quality to travellers, ensure that current and future staff enjoy working at NS, attract more passengers and encourage them to avoid peak hours. As a company, we want to be financially sound and keep train tickets affordable.

Robust services

In addition to our commitment to ensuring reliable and predictable train journeys, we are committed to providing our passengers with high-quality services that meet their needs. When train services are disrupted, we respond quickly and appropriately with the right travel information and aim to get everyone to their destinations. ​

A proud and healthy workforce

​We want all NS employees to be able to be proud of their work and of NS, to enjoy doing their work and to realise their potential to the full. We want to attract and retain high-quality professionals and ensure we have enough of them to offer an excellent passenger product.

Smart strategies for attracting passengers to trains and stations

With a range of season tickets and other propositions, we intend to respond as effectively as possible to new passenger needs and travel patterns. We offer various types of season tickets and shared mobility in the app, and dynamic discounts with NS Voordeel, in order to attract more passengers and encourage them to avoid peak hours. Spreading passengers is also good for the climate, as it provides opportunities to use less energy with timetable adjustments.

Preparing for the future

As well as addressing the challenges of today and tomorrow, we focus on longer-term ambitions. The ultimate goal – working together to make the Netherlands sustainably accessible for everyone – remains our central objective. We continue to serve the public interest; because of the housing challenge and increasing congestion in cities, NS aims to play a key role in providing sustainable access to residential areas and places of work. In addition, we remain aware of how important it is to ensure the accessibility of facilities in areas outside the Randstad conurbation.

Increasing the socio-economic impact of NS

We want to further increase our socio-economic impact. First, by keeping the Netherlands sustainably accessible through a nationwide rail network. Even if all cars are electric, trains will still be most sustainable mode of transport for medium-distance journeys (up to 700 km). From next year, we will measure our contribution to a sustainable future more explicitly by monitoring the amount of CO2 emissions avoided by passengers travelling by train instead of by car.
We are also committed to zero-emission, circular and green operations. NS aspires to achieve full circularity by 2030 in terms of procurement, maximum reuse of materials and zero waste in offices, workshops and trains. Together with ProRail, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS), we are working on a joint ambition known as Zero Waste Stations 2040. In our operations, we save as much energy as possible and maximise the use of our land and buildings for sustainable energy generation.

However, our impact extends much further than the climate. We aspire to be a company of and for the Netherlands as a whole: an organisation that reflects all parts of society, where everybody feels at home and nobody feels excluded. This is how we contribute to the Paris Agreement and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to achieving nine Sustainable Development Goals.

International ambitions

We have strong ambitions to increase our international services: we want to offer faster and more convenient connections between European capitals by providing more frequent services and adding new destinations. The train should become the logical choice for distances up to 700 kilometres. This can be achieved by improving the network, simplifying the booking system and increasing the frequency of services to relevant European destinations.

Stations as sustainable mobility hubs and vibrant spaces

Together with ProRail, we invest in our stations to develop them into sustainable mobility hubs that contribute to a pleasant environment. We want stations to be accessible places for all passengers, where they enjoy smooth transfers and a pleasant atmosphere with excellent facilities, such as our high-quality retail chain stores and Station Living Rooms.

Developing a broad range of mobility options

We continue to develop our own mobility offerings. This includes investment in the availability of public transport bicycles (traditional and electric) in both existing and new locations. We continue to develop the NS App to enable passengers to plan, book and pay for different modes of transport in a single app. In this way, we can offer passengers a complete travel package via the NS App, from their point of departure to their destination. This includes the transport options provided by our partners, such as the services added this year by shared transport providers TIER and Check. We are working hard to offer passengers more shared mobility options through the NS app.

Better forecasting

We want to deploy and use stations, trains and our service and maintenance facilities as effectively as possible. We want to be able to respond faster to disruptions and other high-impact events. Digitalisation and technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) play an important role in this context. See the Innovation section for information on how NS uses these technologies.

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