Skip to website navigation Skip to article navigation Skip to content

Seat availability at peak times on the main rail network

Performance indicator

Realisation in 2019

Realisation in 2018

Minimum value for 2019

Target value for 2019

Seat availability at peak times (main rail network)





Top ten most crowded trains





In 2019, the number of passenger-kilometres increased by 3.7% (2018: 2.4%); nearly double the estimated percentage used by the government to determine the level of investment required. This growth was especially evident on routes in the Randstad conurbation that were already quite busy, such as Utrecht - Amsterdam and Utrecht - Rotterdam/The Hague. The growth in passenger-kilometres can be attributed in particular to factors including the favourable economic conditions and NS's solid operational performance. That is why trains are getting increasingly crowded, especially in the traditionally busy autumn period. NS aims for passengers to be satisfied with their space on the train. We adjust the availability of the rolling stock and the number of available seats to suit passengers' needs where possible, and also include social costs into the equation. For example, in our timetable we ensure that the length of the trains deployed matches expected passenger demand. We do so on the basis of passenger counts, information from our staff and reports from our customers that come in via the NS App, Customer Service and social media. We promote a more balanced distribution of passengers on our trains using public announcements, the extended Zitplaatszoeker (seat searcher) in the NS App and targeted deployment of our service staff. In addition, in the first half of 2019 we tested several new ways to encourage passengers to opt for alternative, less crowded trains. For example, we sent personalised messages to NS-Extra customers who regularly travel on crowded trains.
Despite these measures, offering sufficient numbers of seats on our trains continues to be a major challenge. NS is investing continuously in more and new trains. The first of the 206 new Sprinter trains ordered from Spanish train manufacturer CAR started running in December 2018 and were subsequently deployed on other routes in the country as part of a phased introduction scheme. Due to the increasing numbers of passengers and trains, we are now approaching the limits of infrastructural capacity. For example, we cannot deploy longer trains at stations where the platforms are too short for them. Moreover, the availability of shunting and handling capacity may in the long run prove insufficient.

It is unrealistic to expect all passengers on all trains to find a seat at peak times. In conjunction with other local and national parties, such as educational institutions and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, NS is developing a comprehensive approach of capacity at hyper-rush hours through such initiatives as the 'Better Utilisation' programme and the 'Well on Track' project to alleviate congestion on trains travelling to Utrecht Science Park and to relieve Utrecht CS.

Seat availability at peak times on the main rail network

Seat availability at peak times on the main rail network was 94.9% in 2019. That is 0.2 percentage points lower than in 2018, with growing passenger numbers. The 2019 score is the result of a combination of factors. For example, works on the tracks reduced seat availability in 2019. Works near Leiden continued for three weeks, and the trains serving Naarden-Bussum, Boxtel and other stations at peak hours were either fewer in number or shorter while alternative routes were busier than usual. In addition, in early 2019 passenger volumes rose faster than had been anticipated, resulting in more passengers being unable to find a seat and having to stand at peak times. In the autumn we extended trains to their maximum length on busy routes with many standing passengers. Due to the high passenger numbers and maximum train length, any deviations in the timetable or in train availability had an even greater impact on seat availability. The NS App shows passengers at a glance when a train is shorter than usual and is likely to be particularly crowded as a result. Passengers can use that information to plan their journey and perhaps take an earlier or later train.

Top 10 most crowded trains

For the top 10 most crowded trains, the score was 2.1% in 2019, which is an improvement compared with 2018 (2.5%). This percentage reflects the probability of a passenger being unable to board a train on one of the preselected ten busiest routes during peak times. The top 10 of most crowded trains is dominated by peak hour trains between Haarlem and Amsterdam. In 2019, we used longer trains on this route, resulting in an improved score. In fact, from a planning perspective the chance of a passenger finding a seat or standing room has risen to practically 100%. In the event of disruptions to train services, rolling stock issues or a large influx of passengers (e.g. on routes to the coast on a sunny day, or during major events), trains can occasionally still be more crowded than normal.

Add to My report
Print page