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Risk 4: Infrastructure capacity


The risk that NS is unable to implement the desired timetable (including future extensions) in a robust, punctual and cost-effective manner due to limited infrastructure capacity. This concerns limitation in terms of both the quantity of infrastructure and the extent to which it can be used. As a result, NS would be unable to realise its ambitions for growth, implement the desired operational improvements to the extent required, and accommodate the expected rise in passenger numbers.0


In implementing its timetable, NS is dependent on access to sufficient and reliable rail infrastructure. NS will not be able to accommodate the growing passenger volumes and effect the timetable extensions required for that without expansion of the available infrastructure. However, the timely completion of the necessary infrastructure has come under pressure. This is due to a considerable extent to the fact that the actual and anticipated level of investment is much lower than is required for NS to continue accommodating the upward adjustments of passenger volumes. Other important factors include the rising prices charged by contractors, increasingly stringent environmental legislation (concerning nitrogen, PFAS, noise etc.) and the complex interconnections between many different large-scale infrastructure projects, as a result of which a minor delay in one project may cause considerable disruption in another. In addition, the expected increase in freight transport by train will result in further pressure on the available infrastructure. Finally, withdrawals from service result in the prolonged unavailability of parts of the infrastructure. The many anticipated renovation projects in and around Amsterdam, The Hague, Zwolle, Geldermalsen, Rotterdam and elsewhere and the adaptations to the infrastructure required for the roll-out of ERTMS mean that a whole series of major withdrawals from service are in the pipeline, on top of those required for regular maintenance.

In addition to the risk of insufficient infrastructural capacity for the NS timetable, there is a risk that the usage capacity of the existing infrastructure will also be also affected. This is caused by a range of issues, including restrictions in the supply of traction power (limiting frequency increases and the deployment of modern rolling stock), problems in the detection of modern rolling stock, interfering currents, vibrations (in relation to the weight of trains (‘axle loads’) and the concerns over track stability that have recently emerged. This issues are already causing restrictions in terms of the speed and deployment of trains. Tightened environmental standards (regarding particulate matter, noise or vibrations, for example) may also cause restrictions. Finally, there is a risk that the introduction of ERTMS will reduce the usage capacity of the tracks (while its very purpose is to increase capacity). This is because ERTMS may cause more system failures in the initial years following its implementation, or because the system reduces the usable length of platforms of shunting tracks.


NS draws up an Annual Asset Plan in which the timetable design is combined with the rolling stock, staff and infrastructure (including processing and shunting capacity), looking at both the short term and the long term. This allows NS and ProRail to ensure integrated management of infrastructure needs in the longer term, and gives them time to look for suitable alternatives or mitigating measures, if necessary. A regular process ('MLT') is used to align developments concerning the timetable at NS and the necessary developments in the infrastructure at ProRail. Based on our rolling stock fleet planning, we develop and assess various future scenarios and then share them proactively with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and ProRail. NS is also collaborating with ProRail to make sure the Randstad conurbation remains accessible during works on the track. Examples of this are the joint programme management to limit disruptions for customers within the so-called Amsterdam Diamond (the area between Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Zuid, Amsterdam CS and Weesp) and the active role of NS in the sector-wide Toekomst Bestendig Werken aan het Spoor (TWAS) programme.

Risk control trend

Controlling infrastructure-related risks is a complex challenge, since the principal management and other decisions are taken at ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, beyond the direct influence of NS. Although NS, in 2019, was able to exert more influence by strengthening its focus on the control measures mentioned above, the fact remains that the risks develop beyond its direct control and increased in the infrastructure capacity field in 2019, despite the extra focus on control measures. We therefore expect to see a rise in the number of bottlenecks in the infrastructure, with adverse effects on our train services and on our ability to accommodate further growth in passenger volumes and realise our ambitions.

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