Crowded trains

Passenger numbers are growing, in part because of the upturn in the economy. That is why trains are getting increasingly overcrowded. Passengers are not satisfied with the seating capacity, especially during the traditionally busy autumn period. Trains are often crowded at peak times, which led to many complaints among passengers. NS has been taking measures for some time. From the end of 2015 and during 2016, we took extra measures to handle the problems.

Transport capacity on the main rail network

The customer satisfaction rating of the transport capacity was 74.8%[*] in 2016 (as opposed to 75.4% in 2015). The minimum baseline for the likelihood of being able to get a seat or standing room during peak periods is 98.7%, as agreed with the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. Actual capacity was at just that figure: 98.7%. The actual capacity at peak times on the ten busiest routes was 96.8%.

  • *A new method has been used as of 1 January 2016 to measure general customer satisfaction with seating capacity. The question has been aligned to match the question for general customer satisfaction and is therefore different than in 2015. The break in the trend should be taken into account when comparing the two years. After correction, we can see improvement in this customer satisfaction rating.

Transport capacity on the HSL South

The transport capacity during peak hours for the HSL South services was 87.6% in 2016, 1.9% less than in 2015 (89.5%). As a result, performance was below the minimum baseline. Although twice as many IC direct trains have been running on the Amsterdam to Rotterdam section since the end of 2015, the associated growth in transport capacity was not enough to accommodate the growth in passenger numbers (about 15% per year in 2015 and 2016).

Measures in 2016

  • NS deployed 11 old double-decker trains (type DDM1). These 44 carriages meant 8,700 additional seats and standing places from September onwards.

  • Changes to the NS Journey Planner app: passengers can now see what the actual train length is, and whether the train is shorter than planned as the result of a disruption.

  • Additionally, an “I could not get on” button was added to the congestion notification in the Journey Planner for feedback to NS on actual crowding.

  • On Monday 29 August, NS started using temporary rush-hour buses from Noord-Brabant to Utrecht and from Castricum to the Amsterdam Zuidas area.

  • NS created 4,500 seats and standing places by implementing a new working method inspired by Formula 1, which gets trains back into service more quickly.

  • The conversion of some first class seating created 1,000 extra second class seats.

  • In December, the first new Sprinter trains began operating. An urgent order for a total of 58 trains was placed in December 2014 to let us cope better with the large number of passengers during peak times. These increase the capacity by 16,700 seats and standing places.

  • NS staff avoid the peak period on busy routes – if their work lets them.

Consumentenclaim has instituted proceedings against NS on behalf of a passenger, claiming compensation due to overcrowding on trains. A review in April 2016 carried out by an external research firm, commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, showed that NS is taking measures to prevent overcrowded trains as much as possible.

Communication to passengers

NS has improved the information given to passengers about disruptions. An example of this is a new, striking yellow bar with information on the signs on platforms. In addition, we produced a flyer with information about crowding in trains during peak times (and how it varies) on a number of specific busy routes. The Journey Planner app shows how busy a train is. In the run-up to the traditionally busy autumn period, there was extra customer communication and publicity about the expected crowding and the measures NS has taken. The NS seat availability monitor shows that the number of customers who say that their journey experience matches their expectations is up to the benchmark. Almost a third of passengers say they are aware of the measures NS took to increase the likelihood of getting a seat.

Performance indicators for the transport franchise

Performance indicator

Realisation in 2016

Realisation in 2015

Target value for 2019

Baseline value for 2016

Passenger capacity at peak times (main rail network)





Focus routes for passenger capacity at peak times





Passenger capacity at peak times on HSL South services (domestic)