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 diagram which provides 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.
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.
Other than the ‘Intercity Direct’, there are no supplements or seat reservations required to use the standard Intercity services. Many Intercity trains offer free onboard WiFi and have live travel information screens.
Sprinter Services are slower stopping train services which generally make stops at all stations between cities.
For detailed information on fares and tickets see How to buy Dutch train tickets
Double-decker Intercity trains
These double-deckers run as Intercity services throughout the country and are the most common train type used by the NS. They are known 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.
Note the overhead luggage racks in the cabins are very small and cannot take a standard suitcase. There is some limited space for a medium size case between the backs of some opposing seats. Some passengers with large cases choose to remain in the area near the doors.
First class is denoted by a 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 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.
Single-decker Intercity trains
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.
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.
A new generation of single-decker Intercity (ICNG) trains will operate from 2021.
Intercity Direct/Intercity Brussels
The Intercity Direct is a fast domestic Intercity rail service using modern ICR single-decker carriages similar to the above 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.
Some cabin sections of NS Intercity trains are marked with an ‘S’ on the window. These are quiet cabins where silence is requested and talking on mobile phones is discouraged.
There are 4 types of Sprinter trains which are used on regional routes as stopping trains.
There is the Sprinter Light Train (SLT):
The Stadsgewestelijk Materieel (SGM) were renovated from the older series yellow stopping trains:
There are 2 newer versions of the Sprinter trains, the so-called Sprinter New Generation (SNG) trains (also known as Caf/Civity) and a variant called Stadler/Flirt. The SNG train looks like this:
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 luggage in the overhead racks on the standard seats. A small red 1st class section is found at each end but seats are the same as in 2nd class.
Display screens on board provide route info, though there are no toilet facilities or free WiFi on the SLT and SGM trains. However, the new Sprinter trains have toilets, WiFi and power/USB connections.
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.
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 2 November 2020.