NS to speed up trains from Amsterdam to Berlin, Brussels

Dutch national railway service NS is working on plans to cut train travel time between Amsterdam and Berlin and from Amsterdam to Brussels by about 30 minutes each. “In 2024, new trains will start running on both routes, which will take travelers from one capital to another much faster and more comfortably,” the rail company said, adding that the plan is another step in offering more sustainable travel alternatives to short-haul passenger flights.

The rail company can gain time on the route to Berlin by skipping some German stations, and a better coordinated timetable between the Dutch and German train systems. That will cut travel time from Amsterdam to Berlin from the current 6 hours and 20 minutes to 5 hours and 50 minutes, NS believes. According to the Dutch rail company, political decision making on improving infrastructure on this route is still in progress and it is essential that these improvements be completed on time.

Travel time would still be nearly two hours longer than what thousands of people said they wanted. In a 2018 petition, around 6,500 passengers called on the Dutch government and the NS to create a four-hour high speed train route from Amsterdam to Berlin. The NS, rail infrastructure firm ProRail, and the Dutch government began talks on the issue with their colleagues in Germany a few months later.

Last June, Infrastructure Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen answered questions from Parliament on the issue of international train routes. She indicated her primary focus for advancing that issue is to improve rail connections between the Netherlands and Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London and Paris. She also wanted to develop a better overnight connection from Eindhoven to Dusseldorf, and options which could connect Zwolle to Brussels, Paris and London. Earlier in the month, five southern and eastern Dutch provinces wrote to the ministry demanding better train service to link them up with German destinations.

NS thinks it can also cut the current 2 hours 52 minute train trip from Amsterdam to Brussels by about 30 minutes by running new trains at top their top speed of 200 kilometers per hour on part of the route. Renovations of the tracks around Amsterdam Central Station also means that the Intercity Brussels will move to Amsterdam Zuid station, with a faster connection to the high speed line.

Marjan Rintel of NS called a good rail connection between European capitals crucial. “Belgium and Germany are our most important trading partners in addition to neighboring countries. The number of train travelers to Brussels grew by 14 percent in 2019 and even by 20 percent to Berlin. Without the impact of corona, we would inevitably have reached the limits of that growth in the coming years.”

“The current crisis is therefore no reason for NS to take it easy,” Rintel said. “We must use this period to shift passenger flows sustainably from polluting road and air traffic to the train. We are also doing this with the start of the direct connection to London this autumn, and the night train to Munich, Innsbruck and Vienna in December.”