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 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
Train tickets in the Netherlands can be booked at the Omio site (official partner of NS). 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 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).
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. 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.
Annoyingly, most of the seats upstairs face each other – these offer poor legroom when fully occupied. Some of the newer layouts do have airline-style directional seating in the lower cabin.
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.
The layout is broadly similar to the VIRM with the same luggage issues.
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.
There is a variation of this train called ICR (InterCity Rijtuig) with a lower driver’s cabin that is often pulled by a 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. Seating colour can vary on different trains.
NS Intercity Direct/Intercity Brussels
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 and Intercity Brussels services are ICR variants which are pulled by 1 or 2 electric locomotives.
Seating is directional airline-style with good overhead racks for luggage. We recommend using this train for travel between Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Central.
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 being deployed on the Amsterdam-Breda high speed line.
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):
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 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:
The SNG train seats (both variants) look like this:
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.
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.
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 16 August 2023.
Links on AmsterdamTips.com may pay us an affiliate commission.