Rail TravelTransport

Trains in the Netherlands – A Guide

There are a number of different types of trains on the rail network in the Netherlands. The majority are operated by NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen), the Dutch national railway company.

Let’s take a closer look at the NS trains in use on Dutch domestic rail services.

To start, here is a visual overview of the different types of trains you could encounter. We will then describe each in more detail with photos of trains and seating.

ns train types in the netherlands

NS Intercity vs Sprinter services

Firstly we need to distinguish between the Intercity and the Sprinter stopping services.

Intercity trains are fast domestic train services which make limited stops between the major centres. If you are travelling from one city to another these are nearly always the best and quickest option.

Sprinter Services are slower stopping train services which generally make stops at all stations between cities. They are designed for shorter trips and the average passenger journey time made is around 17 minutes.

For detailed information on fares and tickets see How to buy Dutch train tickets

How To Book Dutch Train Tickets

You can check timetables, prices and make online bookings for Dutch domestic train services at the official NS (Dutch Railways) site here. Prices are in euros (EUR) only and payment is accepted by iDeal or credit cards (Visa/Mastercard/American Express). There are no booking fees, however tickets are non-refundable.

Train tickets in the Netherlands can also be booked at the Trainline site. It offers a wide range of payment options in multiple currencies (including EUR/USD/GBP/AUD). There is a small booking fee but the tickets are fully exchangeable and refundable right up to the day before travel.

NS Intercity trains: Double-deckers

These double-deckers run as Intercity services throughout the country and are the most common train type used by the NS. They are known officially as VIRM (Verlengd InterRegio Materieel).

ns virm double decker intercity train
NS double-decker Intercity train (VIRM)

There is a second type of Intercity double decker which in use on selected routes – the renovated DDZ (DubbelDekkerZonering). These are derived from an older series of double-decker trains.

ns ddz intercity train
NS double-decker Intercity train (DDZ)

You need to use stairs in order to access either the lower or upper cabins. There are 4 steps down to the lower cabin and 7 steps up to the upper cabin.

Carrying large baggage can be a bit of an issue on these trains. In the lower cabin the overhead luggage racks in the cabins are very small and cannot take a standard suitcase. The upper cabin has no luggage racks at all.

There is some limited space for a medium size case between the backs of some opposing seats on the older seat configurations. Some passengers with large cases often choose to remain in the area near the doors.

First class is denoted by an additional thin blue stripe on the train exterior and has a 2-1 seating configuration. The 2nd class cabin is generally a 2-2 configuration with a limited number of single seaters at each end.

Renovated VIRM and DDZ trains carry the same latest generation of seats in broadly the same layout. Some cabins contain sofa seating.

ns virm intercity 2nd class seats
NS VIRM Intercity train seats – 2nd class (upper cabin)
ns virm intercity 1st class seats
NS VIRM Intercity train seats – 1st class (upper cabin)
ns ddz train 2nd class seats
NS DDZ train seats – 2nd class (lower cabin)
ns ddz train 1st class seats
NS DDZ train seats – 1st class (lower cabin)
ns ddz train 1st class sofa seating
NS DDZ train – 1st class sofa seating (lower cabin)

There are some older series of seats still in use on the VIRM trains.

ns virm intercity train seats
NS VIRM Intercity double-decker train seats

NS Intercity trains: Single-deckers

These are known locally as ICM (InterCityMaterieel) and have the nickname Koplopers. With an elevated driver’s cabin reminiscent of a Boeing 747, they are used as Intercity services on a number of routes.

ns icm intercity koploper train
NS Intercity train (ICM-Koploper)

There is a variation of this train called ICR (InterCity Rijtuig) with a lower driver’s cabin that is often pulled by a locomotive.

The Intercity Direct is a fast domestic Intercity rail service using modern ICR single-decker carriages similar to the above ICM layout. It only serves the Amsterdam-Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda route using the Dutch high speed rail track. The international Intercity Brussels service continues on to Antwerp and Brussels.

intercity direct train netherlands
Intercity Direct train with locomotive

These train types are actually much better than the double-deckers for travel with luggage, having large overhead racks and no stairs. Most newer configurations are airline-style with 2-2 in 2nd class and 2-1 in 1st class with a directional change in the centre of cabin.

There are some slight variations on seating but the latest configurations look like this:

Intercity Brussels 2nd class seats
Intercity Brussels train seats – 2nd class
Intercity Brussels 1st class seats
Intercity Brussels train seats – 1st class

Note, for travel between Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam Central a supplement is required on top of the standard ticket.

NS Intercity New Generation

NS is slowly introducing the new ICNG (Intercity New Generation) trains onto the network. The trains can run up to 200km/h and are currently being deployed on the Den Haag-Eindhoven and Amsterdam-Breda lines.

ns intercity new generation (icng) train
NS Intercity New Generation (ICNG) train

The trains have wide entry doors and have different seating zones including some sofas. There is plenty of space for luggage with racks above the seats and some dedicated racks. Most seats have access to a power point and USB charger.

ns intercity new generation - 2nd class seats
NS ICNG train seats – 2nd class
ns intercity new generation - 1st class seats
NS ICNG train seats – 1st class

NS Sprinter trains

There are 3 main types of Sprinter trains which are normally used on regional routes as stopping trains. Note that it is possible that these trainsets could be occasionally used as an Intercity service.

There is the SLT (Sprinter Light Train):

slt sprinter train netherlands
NS Sprinter Light train (SLT)

Newer versions of the Sprinters are called SNG (Sprinter New Generation) trains. There are 2 variants made by different manufacturers – the Spanish-made Caf/Civity and the Swiss-made Stadler/Flirt.

sprinter new genration caf civity
NS Sprinter train (SNG) – Caf/Civity variant
sprinter new generation flirt variant
NS Sprinter train (SNG) – Flirt variant

Sprinter train seats are in a 2-2 open-cabin configuration – there are no doors separating each carriage. The seating is a mix of directional airline-style and group-facing seats.

There are also pull-down seats near the doors and also in the bicycle compartment (14 seats) which is also handy for those with large cases, wheelchairs and strollers.

There is a reasonable space for small to medium size luggage in the overhead racks.

A small 1st class section is generally found at each end – seats are red in colour and are similar to those in 2nd class, except for a pull down armrest between the seats and extra side headrests on SNG 1st class seats.

The SLT train seats look like this:

ns sprinter light train (slt) 2nd class seats
SLT train seats – 2nd class
ns sprinter light train (slt) 1st class seats
SLT train seats – 1st class

The SNG train seats (both variants) look like this:

ns sprinter light train (sng) 2nd class seats
SNG train seats – 2nd class
ns sprinter light train (slt) 1st class seats
SNG train seats – 1st class

Facilities on board NS trains

All NS trains have display screens in the carriages with route information.

Nearly all Intercity trains offer free WiFi on board, marked by the wireless symbol. Some of the new generation of Sprinters also have WiFi available.

There are toiltet (wc) facilities on all Intercity trains and also new generation Sprinters. Note, some older style Sprinters do not have toilets!

All trains (except Intercity Direct) have specially marked areas for carrying bicycles.

All Intercity trains have Quiet Zones (stiltezones) which are marked by an S on the window and a ‘shhh’ symbol. Here silence is requested and talking on mobile phones is discouraged. There are no quiet zones on Sprinters.

silent cabin ns trains
S=Silence – quiet zone on NS train

Intercity double-decker trains can also have Work and Rest zones (for relaxed travel and quiet talking) and Meet and Greet zones (for a more open, lively atmosphere). These are marked by symbol inside.

Other Dutch Train Operators

On some provincial route you will find various non-NS run train services from the likes of Arriva, Blauwnet, Breng, Connexxion (Valleilijn), Keolis and R-net. You may encounter slightly different trains if using these providers.

arriva train leeuwarden-stavoren line - stadler wink type
Arriva train – Leeuwarden-Stavoren line (Stadler WINK type)
breng train arnhem doetinchem
Breng train – Arnhem-Doetinchem line (Stadler GTW diesel type)

International trains

We feature international train services in the Netherlands elsewhere.

For more on the rail network in the Netherlands see our Dutch Railways Guide

This article was originally published in 2011 and has been regularly updated. Last update 6 October 2023.

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