Many people think that NS is responsible for everything related to rail transport, but that is not the case. In the mid-1990s, the management of the rail infrastructure was separated from the rail transport activities. NS transports passengers over the rail network, which is managed by ProRail. The national government decided to implement this measure to promote market forces in the rail transport sector.
The Railway Act (2003) determines the roles, responsibilities and authorisations of the parties involved in rail transport (government, infrastructure management, transport companies and supervisory bodies). The purpose of the Act is to ensure the efficient and safe public transportation by rail, while protecting the public interest.
NS: passenger transport operations
NS is the largest passenger rail transport company in the Netherlands, with more than 1 million travelers per day riding in approximately 4,800 train journeys on the Netherlands' 2,100 kilometres of railways. To do so, NS has almost 3,000 railway cars with seating for more than 260,000 passengers. NS is also responsible for the commercial exploitation of 380 stations not owned by the company.
In Great Britain, NS subsidiary Abellio and its British partner Serco provide rail transport service in the region around Liverpool and the North of England. Abellio also provides rail service in the German states of North Rhine Westphalia, Hessen and Saxony.
ProRail: infrastructure and capacity
ProRail is responsible for the construction, maintenance and management of the Dutch rail network, including all relevant facilities such as tunnels, overpasses, overhead power lines, signals, switches and stations, on behalf of the national government. ProRail also allocates capacity on the rail network and is responsible for rail traffic control.
Other passenger rail companies
NS does not operate trains on all of the railway lines in the Netherlands. Regional governments are currently responsible for many regional and urban rail services, which are not part of the main railway network. Other companies provide passenger rail services on 14 railway lines with a total of almost 700 kilometres of track: Keolis, Arriva, Connexxion, DB Regionalbahn Westfalen and Prignitzer Eisenbahn.
Rail cargo companies
Several rail cargo companies use the Dutch railway network as well. Railion (a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn) is the largest, but it shares the Dutch rail network with companies such as ACTS, Rail4Chem, HGK, Veolia and Cargo. Railway contractor companies such as Strukton and Spitzeke also operate their own trains on the rail network. In total, more than 30 companies are authorised to use the Dutch rail network.
Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate
The inspectorate of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, supervisory unit for Rail and Road Transport, monitors the safety of the rail transport system on behalf of the national government.