The railway network in Netherlands is mainly operated by the state-owned company NS, Nederlandse Spoorwegen. With a track length of almost 2,900 km covering some 405 stations, over 1.2 million passengers use the train every day.
Here are a few tips and facts about using the Dutch rail network...
Get up to speed with Dutch rail ticket types and where to buy - read our guide How To Buy Dutch Train Tickets
From Amsterdam Central Station you can reach all the major cities in the country. Journey times from Amsterdam are as follows: Schiphol Airport (15 mins), Utrecht (30 mins), Den Haag (50 mins), Rotterdam (40-60 mins), Breda (1h 10mins), Eindhoven (1h 20mins), Groningen (2h 10mins, 1 change), Maastricht (2h 30mins) and Vlissingen (up to 2h 50mins).
The longest possible journey timewise you can make on the Dutch rail network is from Stavoren (in Friesland, a province in the north-east) to either Vlissingen (in the south-west) or Kerkrade (south, near Maastricht) which are timetabled to take around 6 hours!
The latest addition to the Dutch rail network is the 50km of track between Zwolle and Lelystad (known as the Hanze Line) which opened late 2012.
Dutch trains are on the whole relatively punctual with 94% (2012) of train services labelled "on time" - which means a delay of less than 3 minutes. However it was noted in the Dutch press recently that on occasion the NS misses out some scheduled stops to keep its services on time. If your train is delayed more than 30 minutes you can request a partial refund.
Problems can occur with points/signals/overhead lines during severe winter weather, causing knock-on delays and cancellations - especially around Utrecht which is the central rail hub of the country. In any potential adverse winter weather, NS moves to a specially restricted winter timetable (winterdienstregeling).
You will find a map of the Dutch rail network displayed at station platforms. A comprehensive map of the network is also available from the NS website here which also shows if there are any current line problems (storingen), also listed online here. The NS site also includes timetable information and prices for journeys.
For travellers to Amsterdam, check out our Amsterdam Rail Network map
Netherlands has a high speed rail track. The HSL-Zuid (Hogesnelheidslijn Zuid, or High Speed Line South) is 125km of line running from just after Schiphol airport to Rotterdam and then onto the Dutch/Belgian border towards Antwerp. This track is used by the high speed Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris Thalys train. The track also branches off to Breda which is used by the domestic Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Breda Intercity Direct (formerly FYRA) service.
If you live in the Netherlands consider getting one of the Dutch railways discount cards which can give you up to 40% off travel costs.
Note that a few minor regional train services in Netherlands are operated by the likes of Arriva, Connexxion, Syntus and Veolia.
At each station, you can find timetables on large yellow printed boards. NS is planning to remove some of these as many passengers now check train times on their smartphone
Most platforms have an electronic overhead board which tells you the time and destination of the next train plus the main stopping stations. It will inform of any delays (vertraging) in 5 minute increments.
For an overview of Dutch trains, see our Train Types in Netherlands. Many Intercity services offer free onboard WiFi.
Be aware that routine maintenance (werk aan het spoor) is often done at weekends which can cause delays - this means either a diversion via an alternative route or a replacement bus service being used. This information is highlighted on posters at stations and online here. If in doubt about services ask one of the NS staff members at the station; unmanned stations have help points where you can contact NS.
The NS is very active on Twitter (@NS_online) where passengers can get quick responses to queries. NS also offers iPhone and Android travel planner apps.