There are a number of different types of trains on the rail network in Netherlands, the majority of which are operated by the national rail company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen).
Let’s take a closer look at the NS trains in use on Dutch domestic rail services…
Intercity vs Sprinter services
Firstly we need to distinguish between the Intercity and stopping services.
Intercity trains are 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 the stairs in order to access either the lower and 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 has a 2-1 seating configuration whilst 2nd class is generally 2-2 with single seaters near the swinging glass-entry doors.
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 also the renovated DDZ (Nieuwe Intercity Dubbeldekker) in use on selected Intercity routes. These were derived from the old stopping 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.
They 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.
The Intercity Direct is a fast domestic Intercity rail service using modern single-decker carriages similar to the above ICM Koploper layout. It only serves the Amsterdam-Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda route using the Dutch high speed rail track.
Seating is mainly 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.
There are 3 types of Sprinter trains which are used on regional routes as stopping trains. There is the Sprinter Light Train (SLT); the Stadsgewestelijk Materieel (SGM) which replaced the older series yellow stopping trains; and the next generation Sprinter Light trains.
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 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 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 nor free WiFi. However, the new Sprinter Light trains being introduced will have toilets, WiFi and power/USB connections.
For more on the rail network in the Netherlands see our Dutch Railways Guide