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Every day, NS transports more than 1.1 million train passengers. We are their connection between home and work, between family and friends and all of the other people in their lives. The train is still the only mode of transport that can take passengers to the heart of the city centre unhindered, in a sustainable and safe manner. The train has been a unique way to get from place to place for more than 175 years, and that is a source of pride for more than 30,000 NS employees. On average, NS has performed much better over the past few years, but not on every route and not for every passenger. So to us, 'average' is not good enough. Travellers expect a comfortable journey from door to door, in a clean train with plenty of seating and a good WiFi connection - and that runs on time between stations that are among the world's best.

Three core tasks

Our ambition for the next few years is to turn our best performance from the recent past into the new standard. In order to achieve that goal, we have placed greater focus on our activities in our Strategy 2016-2019. To do so, we must dare to choose to dramatically improve our performance for the passengers, from average good to exceptionally good. In the Strategy 2016-2019, we have emphatically chosen to prioritise three core activities:

  1. Improving our performance on the main rail network, including HSL and the international train service that runs on that network. The focus is on offering our passengers a good train journey.
  2. To do so, we must also provide world-class stations. A train is useless without a station. Travellers expect stations to offer convenient connections and a safe and comfortable stay while waiting for their next connection. We provide that in close collaboration with ProRail and in consultation with local governments.
  3. Contributing to a journey from door to door : the traveller's journey begins at a front door and ends at another one. That means we must provide accurate and reliable travel information, make it easier to pay and offer convenient connections to other modes of transportation, such as bus and tram.

By focusing on these three core activities, we can actually make the traveller our #1 priority, and we can fulfill our social obligation to reinforce sustainable mobility in the Netherlands. In everything we do, we must answer one simple question: how does this make the traveller's life better?

It wasn't so long ago that the NS was given the opportunity to continue to operate trains on the main network for ten more years. That is a privilege, and it brings with it a big responsibility. We aim to fulfill that responsibility, so that more and more travellers will choose to use public transport - and therefore us.

Regional rail concessions and Qbuzz

When choosing the three core activities, we reviewed our total selection of products and services. With a primary focus on the main rail network, NS will no longer bid for regional rail concessions in the future. This will also considerably simplify our cooperation with regional transport companies and local governments: we are partners, not competitors. More intensive cooperation with these partners is necessary in order to offer a good selection of door-to-door services. We have therefore decided to eventually say farewell to our Qbuzz transport activities in the Netherlands. Naturally, we will conduct that process carefully, in appreciation of the interests of the employees and the value of the company.

Retail and real estate at the stations 

We have also made clear choices with regard to providing world-class train stations. Ten years ago, there were almost no parties in the market that were willing to do business at the station. Today, there are a wide range of companies of all sizes who have the experience, knowledge and scale to exploit retail opportunities at the stations. We have largely sold off all of our retail activities at the stations and the real estate that is not directly at the service of the travellers' transfer, connection, relaxation or commercial needs. We will continue to provide formulas that serve the passengers' immediate needs during their journey, of course. Some examples include the Kiosk and the StationsHuiskamers.

With regard to our real estate, we will continue along the path that we started several years ago. The NS owns land and real estate that does not contribute to the strategic focus at the station and its surrounding areas. We will therefore continue our policy of selling off non-strategic properties over the foreseeable future.

These efforts will gradually change our role at the stations, without jeopardising our improvements in quality made over the past few years.


We will expand our international activities via our subsidiary Abellio by focusing on a limited number of liberalised European markets, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. This will allow us to continue to prepare for future developments in the railway industry. We will increasingly use the lessons learned abroad for the benefit of travellers in the Netherlands. Good public transport is not only an export product, but also offers us the opportunity to import new knowledge and experience. That makes everyone's life better, and we can ensure that we can limit any risks as effectively as possible.

Investing in the future

Over the next five years, NS will focus its investments on the traveller. The most important investments will be made in three areas:

  1. New trains: € 2.5 billion for the expansion and renovation of the rolling stock.
  2. Greater comfort and service for the passenger: € 300 million for innovations in the field of better travel information, WiFi in the train and at the station, and new payment methods.
  3. Stations: during the period 2016-2020, NS will invest more than € 300 million in facilities at stations, such as parking and new Kiosks.

The organisational structure

As part of the strategic plan, we will examine how to make our organisation simpler and more effective, with more room for the ideas that come from the shop floor. The new organisation will be based around the customer's journey. That joint focus will start at the top, with a management board that is jointly responsible for the performance on the main rail network. The details of this plan are currently under development.

Big ambitions for 2019, improvements visible starting in 2017

Unfortunately, we won't be able to fix our shortage of rolling stock by 2016. And travellers along certain routes, such as the A2 Corridor, will experience even more irritation along the way due to the renovations of the stations and maintenance on the track during 2016. We are working together with ProRail to do all we can to limit the effects for the travellers. At the same time, we are doing everything we can to make major steps forward in the areas of customer satisfaction, punctuality, travel information and profitability starting in 2017, with the ultimate goal of reaching our objectives in 2019. And those improvements will be big, if we look at what we have achieved so far:

  • Increase of customer satisfaction rating from 74.2% to 80.0% (travellers giving a rating of 7 or higher)
  • Increase in traveller punctuality from 91.0% to 92.3%
  • Improvement in travel information for the train segment from 81.1% to 82.0%

Can we make it happen?

It won't be easy, which is the reason we've had to make specific choices regarding our activities. This should bear fruit when future travellers can enjoy the best possible train transport in the Netherlands. The history of railways is one of progress, but always as the result of hard work, of trial and error. Everyone who works on the railway shares one single goal: to move forward. The same applies to us today. And we have a good reason for doing so: we choose for the traveller, so that more travellers will choose for us.

Interview with Roger van Boxtel on the strategy