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

Solid performance is the basis for customer satisfaction and healthy financial results. These are crucial to keep train fares affordable and enable us to finance the necessary investments to accommodate the growth in mobility.


In January and February, NS did well in terms of punctuality with a 5-minute and a 15-minute margin for passengers on the main rail network (at 93.5% and 97.6% respectively). In February, punctuality rates suffered from the effects of two storms and a prolonged breakdown in Rotterdam's Willemsspoortunnel. Since the moment we introduced a basic timetable, the scores for punctuality for passengers have been relatively high. With fewer trains running in the network, it was easier to make up for any delays and prevent them from accumulating. Peak-hour congestion and the attendant performance dips also decreased. After rail services were scaled up again in the second half of 2020, punctuality figures remained high, despite a number of further dips due to a heat wave in August, several major incidents and a number of stormy days.
In 2020, despite the reduced timetable and lower passenger numbers, we continued improving our punctuality rate by providing our train drivers and guards with more and better operational information, including exact departure times and real-time route information. We also conducted pilots with coasting time and speed advice, and better-quality boarding information for passengers aimed at reducing halt times at the stations. In addition, we further developed TimTim, a tablet with apps for train drivers. For example, TimTim shows information about train timetables, temporary speed limits and issues with slippery tracks.

Punctuality for passengers on the high-speed line

In 2020, punctuality with a 5-minute margin for passengers on the high-speed line was 85.2% (2019: 83.4%), due in part to the moderate scores for January and February. Those were caused by infrastructure defects, for example at Zuidweg and in the Willemspoortunnel, and storms in February resulting in cancelled trains, delays and missed transfers. Punctuality rates recovered consistently for a time in the second half of the year, thanks to the lower numbers of international trains on this normally busy route and to additional measures to maintain services during periods of extremely hot weather.
The timetable was scaled down once again in November. In that month, windscreens were installed on the railway bridge across Hollandsch Diep to allow trains on the high-speed line to cross the bridge at normal speed even in strong winds. This is an important measure from the package for infrastructural improvements to the high-speed line made available by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

Seat availability

Main rail network

Peak-time seat availability scores on the main rail network were relatively high in January. In February, works at peak hours on weekdays resulted in limited seat availability on several routes and more passengers than usual on the alternative routes. Combined with the effects of several major disruptions, this reduced seat availability during this period.

Peak times on the high-speed line

In early 2020, peak-time seat availability figures on the high-speed line were comparable to those for the same period in 2019. Capacity expansions in 2019 helped to accommodate the strong growth in passenger numbers at the beginning of 2020. From mid-March, in the basic timetable no domestic trains used the high-speed line, and on alternative routes Sprinter trains were used to transport passengers between Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Rotterdam and between Rotterdam and Breda. In all cases, seat availability remained 100%, thanks to the considerable overcapacity of trains due to decreased passenger numbers.

Top 10 most crowded trains

The top 10 of most crowded trains saw several changes in 2020, including in particular routes in the Leiden area. Trains there were extended to accommodate passenger volumes, resulting in significantly higher scores at the beginning of 2020. However, works on the tracks reduced transport capacity and generated disruptions, causing the score to fall once again in February. The rate for the year as a whole was 1.4% (2019: 2.1%). This percentage reflects the probability of a passenger being unable to board a train at peak hours.

Travel information

NS wants to give passengers more control over their door-to-door journey 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 passengers can make better choices both before and during their journey. Every year, NS sends millions of travel advice messages about connections, works on the tracks and disruptions. In January and February 2020, we gave timely information - on the train and at the station - about disruptions in 86.1% of cases. One improvement in travel advice services in 2020 is that we more prominently include other means of transport than the train, such as bus and metro services. The advice issued is based on the shortest travel time. Alternative options are particularly relevant when passengers have to schedule or adjust their travel plans in the event of a disruption.

Travel information during the train journey

The ‘Travel information during the train journey’ performance indicator states whether the travel information provided five minutes before the actual departure of the train was correct in cases of delayed departure or a platform change. In 2020, the score for this indicator was 85.0%. In the second quarter the score dropped, due to the reduced number of Intercity trains in the basic timetable. Delays and platform changes are easier to predict for Intercity trains than for Sprinters, given the short times between successive stops of Sprinters.

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