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Performance on the main rail network and the high-speed line

During the elections for the House of Representatives in March, passengers could cast their votes at various stations in the Netherlands.

Solid performance is the basis for customer satisfaction and healthy financial results. Crucially, these enable us to keep train fares affordable and to make the necessary investments to accommodate the growth in mobility.

Our sustainable spearheads


Optimising capacity utilisation


The train as the sustainable alternative for distances up to 700 kilometres


Making trains more attractive through timetable improvements



In 2021, as in 2020, passenger volumes were far below pre-COVID-19 figures. In the first half of 2021, NS operated an adapted timetable. Up until May this equalled 90% of the regular timetable. In June we ran 98% of the timetable; after that we resumed the full timetable until operations were scaled down again in December. Due to the tightening of COVID-19 measures, we scrapped evening, night-time and peak-hour train services with few passengers.
Since fewer people travelled on the trains, we were able to reduce stopping times, speed up the departure process and make up for delays faster. In addition, the share of short journeys – which are less susceptible to delays – increased. This also helped to increase average punctuality figures for the main railway network. Punctuality for passengers (to 5 minutes) on the main rail network was 94.4% in 2021 (2020: 93.5%). Punctuality for passengers (to 15 minutes) on the main rail network was 98.1% in 2021 (2020: 97.9%). At several points in time, the scores on punctuality for passengers on the main rail network were adversely influenced by extreme weather conditions, such as during the wintry weather in February, a storm in March and flooding in July and August. In addition, we were confronted with disruptions in the telecommunications network in May and September. Staff shortages at ProRail's rail traffic control centre resulted in prolonged cancellations of trains, even though this did not appreciably affect the figure for the year as a whole. According to ProRail, the staffing issues will be resolved by mid-2023. Until that time, trains may still have to be cancelled. We are engaged in talks with ProRail to avoid repetition of the problem. 

Punctuality for passengers on the high-speed line

Punctuality for passengers (to 5 minutes) on HSL South was 89.2% in 2021 (2020: 85.2%). Shorter stopping times due to lower passenger numbers (especially at peak hours) had a positive effect on punctuality, also on the high-speed line. In addition, during the first five or more months of the year there were fewer trains on the high-speed line: two IC direct trains per hour on HSL South instead of the usual four. For 2021 as a whole, the numbers of daily Eurostar and Thalys journeys were also lower than they normally are. This also had a positive effect on the punctuality of domestic high-speed trains. The biggest negative impact on punctuality for passenger scores was caused by snowfall and its subsequent effects in February. Temporary negative effects were seen in connection with incidents such as a fire alarm in the tunnel near Rotterdam-North in April, a fire alarm in the Schiphol Tunnel in July and a telephony outage at ProRail in September.

Performance Indicator

Realisation in 2021

Realisation in 2020

Minimum value for 2021

Punctuality for passengers (with a 5-minute margin) on the main rail network




Punctuality for passengers (with a 15-minute margin) on the main rail network




Punctuality for passengers (with a 5-minute margin) on HSL South




Seat availability

In 2021, NS deployed trains with ample capacity so as to enable safe and responsible transport. As a result, seat availability during peak hours on the main rail network and on the high-speed line reached almost 100% in August. During the COVID-19 period, we developed and rapidly implemented a process that enables us to make weekly passenger volume forecasts geared to current conditions and factor in maintenance or repair works, for instance. From September, passenger numbers began to recover as students and commuters returned in our trains, and passengers sometimes had to stand during their journey, as before. Seat availability at peak times was 99.6% (2020: 97.3%) on the main rail network and 99.9% (2020: 98.1%) on HSL South.

Number of crowded trains at peak times per working week

This new indicator measures the number of trains with crowding levels above the ‘full’ standard on the main rail network at peak times per working week. The figure for 2021 was 4. This means that all regular seats are occupied and that four passengers per square metre are standing on the balconies. This situation was rare in 2021, due to the low passenger numbers and ample deployment of trains.

Performance Indicator

Realisation in 2021

Realisation in 2020

Minimum value for 2021

Seat availability at peak times (main rail network)




Seat availability on HSL at peak times




Number of crowded trains at peak times per working week1




  • 1 New indicator in 2021, no result measured for 2020.

Travel information

NS wants to give passengers more control over their door-to-door journeys and more freedom of choice, irrespective of the means of transport or the carrier. High-quality travel information plays a key role in this, especially when an unexpected event changes the scheduled course of the journey. Travel information has to be correct, frequent, in time, consistent and up to date so that each passenger can make good choices both before and during the journey. ‘User-friendly travel information’ is a new performance indicator that shows the extent to which we have provided passengers with correct and timely information about platform changes, delays and train cancellations, and whether we have provided timely advice on alternative routes in the case of serious delays. In 2021, the score for this indicator was 79.9%.

In the past year we made several improvements to travel information. Adaptations to the system now enable us to provide information faster at all stations if no automated logistics information is yet available. In addition, since June 2021 we have created public announcements using text-to-speech software, allowing us to inform passengers even faster than before. In the NS app, we are improving information about bus, tram and underground services and enable passengers to sign up for notifications in case of disruptions on particular routes or journeys. We have entered into agreements with ProRail on ensuring more consistent performance of journey information displays. We have started a series of follow-up experiments with a 'minute-counter’ and boarding info on station displays to help passengers find the best position on the platform and speed up the boarding process. Since August, the on-board information screens in may Intercity and Sprinter trains show graphics with information about delays, enabling passengers to see at a glance whether they should expect any disruption on their route so that they lose less time in finding an alternative route.

Performance Indicator

Realisation in 2021

Realisation in 2020

Minimum value for 2021

User-friendly travel information




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