Skip to website navigation Skip to article navigation Skip to content

Our impact on the Netherlands

Author Lale Gül won the NS Audience Award with her book, Ik ga leven (I'm going to live).

In 2021, the number of people in the Netherlands using our trains increased compared with the year before. Even though passenger numbers are still well below the 2019 level, our social impact remains considerable. This is reflected in areas such as mobility, safety, environmental impact and our expenditure. 

We present a transparent picture of our social impact by expressing the positive and negative socio-economic and environmental effects of our operations in euros. In this chapter we have tried to do so as objectively as possible, and to express some of those effects in monetary terms. 

In a nutshell

In 2021, passengers travelled 9 billion kilometres by train. This is slightly more than in 2020. The increase in kilometres travelled has also increased the positive impact of NS-generated mobility. At the same time, the negative impact has increased as people spent more time travelling and the environmental impacts of first- and last-mile transport have increased. On balance, NS's positive social impact amounted to €2,369 million (compared with €2,352 million in 2020).
As in previous years, rail travel had only a very small impact on the environment compared with travel by car. The overall positive impact of rail as opposed to car travel increased slightly in 2021, due to the rise in passenger-kilometres compared with 2020.

Social impact of NS

Impact in 2021

% relative to 2020

% relative to 2014


Impact compared with cars

% relative to 2020

% relative to 2014


(in € million)

(in € million)

(in € million)


(in € million)

(in € million)

(in € million)























journey time















health and safety












Social impact of NS 

For further information about the methodology, the principles applied and the valuations and sources used, consult the NS 2021 Handbook on socio-economic impact analysis (only available in Dutch). 

Socio-economic impact of mobility and travel time

The Kennis Instituut Mobiliteit, a knowledge centre for mobility issues, has valued the importance of mobility in the Netherlands at €76 billion. NS used the results of that study to attach a certain value to each kilometre travelled by our passengers on our trains. We then multiplied the value per kilometre travelled by the total number of NS passenger-kilometres in 2021, which yielded a total value of €4,114 million (compared with €3,839 million in 2020).
At the same time however, to the extent that passengers cannot entirely spend the time they need to travel from A to B in other useful ways, the total door-to-door travel time also generates social costs. This applies in particular to time lost due to delays and to time spent in overcrowded trains (for example due to a lack of seating). This negative impact of time spent travelling amounted to €2,963 million in 2021 (compared with €2,722 million in 2020).

Environmental impact: emissions, land use, waste, water and noise

Our negative environmental impact results, among other things, from the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels cause air pollution due to emissions of substances such as CO2, SO2, NOx and particulate matter. This has a negative impact on climate, nature and health and generates social costs. The use of 100% green power for our trains and buildings has considerably reduced our negative impact over the past few years, even by more than 50% compared with 2014. Land use, waste, water consumption and noise nuisance also have negative environmental impacts.

This negative environmental impact was €55 million in 2021 (2020: €47 million), of which approximately €8 million as a direct consequence of NS operations and approximately €47 million in the transport sector as a whole including the first and last mile, the building of trains, plus electricity and infrastructure. The increase compared with 2020 was caused by the rise in the number of journeys made and the resulting increase in the consumption of resources for the first and last mile.
Compared with the use of cars, travelling by train has a positive environmental impact. Travelling by train avoids a certain amount of the impact of air pollution because pollution produced by trains – including public transport bicycles – is low compared to car journeys and alternatives for the first and last mile. The positive impact of train travel on noise and land use compared with cars consists in the road construction and noise abatement measures that are not required because passengers are opting for the train. The positive environmental impact compared with car use was only calculated for ‘elective passengers’, i.e. those who are willing and able to make a choice between the car and the train.

Socio-economic impact through safety

NS contributes to safety in society by providing safe transport and a safe environment for its passengers and employees. We constantly work to guarantee occupational safety, personal safety and safe travel.

The social costs of occupational safety (accidents at work) in 2021 were €32,4 million (2020: €33,8 million). The social costs of personal safety (or a lack thereof) in 2021 were approximately €19 million, which is slightly higher than in 2020.
To provide safe travel, NS is working with its partners on preventing collisions, derailments and unsafe situations at the stations. In 2021, the social costs of unsafe situations amounted to approximately €8 million. The number of traffic accidents in the first and last mile is much higher, and so is their impact, which in 2021 amounted to €53 million (2020: €48 million).
Rail travel train is relatively safe compared to transport by car. We calculate this positive impact by determining the number of avoided accidents. To that end, we calculate how many more accidents would have happened if all our elective passengers had travelled by car instead of by train. In 2021, the social benefits of safe transport by train were approximately €298 million (2020: €278 million).

Socio-economic impact on health through a more active lifestyle

Passengers who use our services become more active than they would be if they opted for a different mode of transport. We calculated this socio-economic impact for the first time in 2018. Moving to and from the train or bus station makes a certain percentage of otherwise inactive people become active. On average, NS passengers get 16 minutes of extra exercise every day. Due to this extra exercise, one sixth of rail passengers move to the group of people with an active lifestyle. Such a lifestyle can avoid costs associated with an inactive lifestyle, including medical costs and loss of productivity. The positive impact of this in 2021 was €0.6 million (2020: approximately €0.9 million). 

Socio-economic impact from staff training and employability

NS exerts a positive socio-economic impact by developing the knowledge, skills and talents of its employees, by aiming to keep them in sustained employment, and by being a diverse and inclusive organisation. Training programmes at NS increase the economic value of our people and improve their potential on the labour market after they have left NS. The social benefits of this in 2021 amounted to approximately €11 million.
Incapacity for work limits the employability of employees. This entails negative social costs of approximately €20 million, for example because of higher medical costs and costs of benefit payments, and lower productivity and purchasing power.

Socio-economic impact through expenditure

We also have a socio-economic impact through our own expenditure, such as procurement, investments and salaries. This means for instance that we contribute to added value and employment opportunities at our suppliers. The economic benefits were €1,373 million of added value at suppliers (2020: €1,377 million), in the form of approximately 19,655 jobs.

Add to My report
Print page