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Notes to the material themes

We recalibrated our material themes in 2021. For the purpose of this exercise, the management team and the stakeholder and franchise management team indicated whether they had seen any shifts in relevance and impact as a result of developments over the past year. With a view to its broad role in Dutch society, NS attaches importance to all 17 material topics. The matrix has been validated by the Executive Board.

Tightening definitions

We have tightened the definitions of two themes: ‘The extent to which NS works to provide faster international connections’ has been tightened to ‘The extent to which NS works to provide and implement international connections’, which more accurately reflects the role of NS in increasing not only the speed but also the quantity of international connections. As regards Abellio, the following definition applied: ‘The extent to which NS achieves sustainable financial returns, learns from its experiences abroad and allows Dutch passengers to benefit from its presence abroad’. This has been replaced by ‘The extent to which Dutch passengers benefit from NS's international franchise contracts’. This new definition arises from the recalibration of our previous Abellio objectives (earn, learn & prepare) in 2018. Those objectives were no longer fully consistent with current developments, such as the stagnating deregulation of railway transport in Europe. For that reason, NS has tightened its strategy for its foreign operations.

Thematic shifts

Compared with the matrix from 2020, two themes have moved up on the Y-axis (= in relevance). ‘Travelling and working in safety’ (4) has risen on the Y-axis due to the attention for COVID-19 measures, the finalisation of the ORBIT implementation process and NS's follow-up actions in response to the report on the accident at Hooghalen (concerning uncontrolled level crossings). The rise of ‘International connections’ (5) can be attributed to the extra attention for international transport generated over the past year by the European Year of Rail and the launch of NightJet services.

As regards the X-axis, NS's impact has increased on the themes of ‘Customer satisfaction’ (3), ‘Contribution to Dutch Climate Agreement’ (6), ‘Collaborating with stakeholders’ (7), ‘Innovation’ (9), ‘Designing and sharing knowledge on mobility’ (10), ‘Accessibility’ (11) and ‘Responsible procurement’ (15). The increase of impact on ‘Customer satisfaction’, ‘Collaboration with stakeholders’ and ‘Innovation’ reflects developments triggered by the pandemic. NS is keen to get passengers back into the train again. To that end we intensified our discussions with stakeholders over the past year and went ahead with our innovation processes at full steam. Our rising scores on ‘Contribution to Dutch Climate Agreement’ (6) and ‘Designing and sharing knowledge on mobility’ (10) reflect the impact we generated by installing 200 solar panels on two of our technical centres and commissioning six wind turbines on the Nieuwe Hemweg wind farm. Our role as a front runner in the field of data usage via the Data Usage Board also contributed. The increase for ‘Accessibility’ (11) is associated with the redevelopment of the NS service formula at our stations, while our increased impact on ‘Responsible procurement’ (15) reflects the more stringent conditions that NS imposed on suppliers earlier this year.

Evaluation of the management approach

We use our results in the annual evaluation of our management approach to the various material topics. For ‘Operational performance’ (1), ‘Door-to-door journey’ (2) and ‘Customer satisfaction’ (3), for example, we use the performance indicators from the 2021 Rail Transport Franchise. For the other material topics we use our own performance indicators. We report on any adjustments to our management approach that result from the evaluation.


Topics in 2021



Operational performance

The extent to which NS is committed to achieving operational performance agreements on the Main Rail Network and HSL South, such as punctuality and seat availability. 


Door-to-door journey

The extent to which NS facilitates customised door-to-door travel for all public transport passengers in all regions of the Netherlands. Using our own physical and digital services where possible but also by using other providers. 


Customer satisfaction

The extent to which NS meets the core needs of travellers with respect to their travel experience. 


Travelling and working in safety

The extent to which NS is committed to safety for passengers, employees and colleagues of partners. 


International connections

The extent to which NS works with partners to improve international connections in order to offer an attractive alternative to short-haul flights and cars. 


Contribution to Dutch Climate Agreement 

The extent to which NS is committed to making mobility more sustainable, by reducing energy use and CO2 emissions and making circular use of resources and materials. 


Collaborating with stakeholders 

The extent to which NS works reliably, openly and accessibly with (inter)national and regional stakeholders to shape mobility in the Netherlands. 


World-class stations 

The extent to which NS is committed to working with our partners in the region to provide world-class stations by creating functional and valued hubs for mobility and quality of life in their environments. 



The extent to which NS continues to innovate in order to optimise our services, the quality of our products and efficient operations, and thus the satisfaction of passengers with their journeys, now and in the future. 


Designing and sharing knowledge on mobility 

The extent to which NS is actively taking the lead in shaping future and sustainable mobility in the Netherlands and sharing knowledge with the sector. 



The extent to which NS is committed to seamless travel in order to make its products and services available and accessible to all. 


Financial performance 

The extent to which NS is able to achieve a financial return now and in the future so that it can continue to invest in improving its services. 


Attractive and inclusive employer 

The extent to which NS can offer its employees an attractive (terms of employment, rewards, development) and inclusive (open and safe, diversity, equality) working environment where everyone can be themselves. 


Integrity & compliance 

The extent to which NS is committed to sustainable assurance of integrity, desired behaviour and compliance. 


Responsible procurement 

The extent to which NS takes responsibility for making products and services more sustainable and innovative through active procurement policies, including a focus on social entrepreneurship, innovation, energy consumption and circularity. 


Risk management 

The extent to which NS is able to consciously deal with uncertainties that may have a negative impact on the realisation of its strategic objectives. 


Abellio franchises 

The extent to which Dutch passengers benefit from NS foreign franchises.

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