24 August 2022, by Victoria Séveno

It’s been a big week for train travel in the Netherlands; on top of the strikes being held across the country from Wednesday, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has announced that from next month, it will be running a reduced timetable as a result of ongoing staff shortages. 

Train travel in the Netherlands hit by strikes and staff shortages

On Tuesday afternoon, NS announced it would be implementing a new timetable for 2023, which would be introduced in December of this year. However, as a result of the severe staff shortages the company continues to face, rail services will be “gradually adjusted” over the coming months. This means that from September 5, travellers will be faced with a reduced timetable, with more changes expected before the end of the year. 

“The original timetable for 2023 is still based on the expected strong passenger growth from 2019. The world now looks really different,” explained NS CEO Bert Groenewegen, adding that the shortage of workers means NS is unable to fulfil current services, leading to cancellations and delays, frustration amongst passengers, and an unfair workload for employees. “We are looking at ways to give our colleagues more space to do their work in a normal way again. This requires an adjustment of the timetable,” Groenewegen concluded.

Significant changes to NS timetable expected from September 5

From September 5, travellers should prepare for the following changes to the NS timetable: 

  • On weekdays, four Intercity trains will run every hour, instead of the current six (this includes the key route between Arnhem, Utrecht, Schiphol Airport, and Rotterdam).
  • The evening timetable will come into effect at 8pm instead of 10pm.
  • At weekends and in the evenings, Intercity and Sprinter trains will run every 30 minutes instead of every 15 minutes.

The 2023 timetable will see NS run 10 percent fewer trains than in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit. In addition to the above adjustments, these are the key changes travellers should expect from December 11: 

  • During Friday rush hour, Intercity trains will run every 30 minutes instead of every 15 minutes on a number of routes.
  • Between Monday and Thursday, NS will run a train every 10 minutes instead of every 15 minutes on the route between Eindhoven and Amsterdam.
  • On the route between Breda and Rotterdam, NS will run three trains every hour instead of five. 

Train strikes kick off in northern regions on Wednesday

This news about a reduced timetable comes as the NS faces internal issues with workers over salaries and benefits. Starting Wednesday, thousands of NS employees are staging a walkout, with strikes planned in different regions right through to the end of August. 

The first strike day, August 24, affects the north of the Netherlands, meaning practically no trains are running between Zwolle and Lelystad. Some disruption is also expected in other parts of the country, and trains are likely to be busier than usual as a result of the strike action. 

The strike kicked off at 4am, and is due to last a full 24 hours. Travellers’ organisation Rover has warned members of the public to rearrange any travel plans and stay home on days NS workers are set to strike. If the situation isn’t resolved, Dutch trade unions predict that a national strike could be on the cards in early September.

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