Amsterdam Central Station / The Netherlands

A long-term undertaking


The Dutch railway system


Prorail, a body governed by private law, is the infrastructure manager and owner of the national rail network of the Netherlands. It is granted a concession by the Minister of Transport.

  • NS - is a private company, whose main shareholder is the Ministry of Finance. It is a holding company with five subsidiaries:
  • NS Hispeed – For the operation of the high speed network.
  • NS Reizigers – For the operation of passenger trains.
  • Abellio – NS international.
  • NedTrain – For the maintenance of rolling stock.
  • NS Vastgoed – Property manager.

The competition regulator is NMa (The Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit), one of the exclusive agencies of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, for a Dutch network which is open to competition.

One of the major features of the organisation of railways in the Netherlands is that the Dutch state is the sole shareholder. The Ministry of Transport owns the whole of the national rail network and finances the major part of the maintenance and construction of the railway.

**Structure of Dutch railways

Given its strategic position the Dutch network is a crossroad on a European and world level, even if there is no distinction between regional and long-distance traffic.
The Dutch railway network comprises 2809 km of lines, all with standard track gauge (1.435 m) and 2061 km of electrified lines (1.5 kV DC), which constitutes an interoperable link in the European network.

A high speed service operated by Thalys International was recently introduced to run between France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands around the Paris-Brussels route; however other endeavours to extend the network have not yet been completed.

Governance and financing of Dutch railway stations


NS Holding is the owner of all railway stations in the Netherlands, while Prorail is responsible for managing stations and transfer facilities, which include tracks, platforms, underground passageways, lifts, escalators, bike racks, signs and supplying passenger information. The station buildings belong to NS-Poort (subsidiary of NS Holding), also the manager.


Construction and renovation of stations: funds are allocated by the Ministry of Finance, NS, Prorail and station access charges.

For the running of stations: funds come from train path allocation charges and rental income from the letting of business space. NS has relatively recently introduced a policy to diversify these activities, and thus also manages property, with an annual turnover of 350 million euros. Around Amsterdam Central station, NS owns hotels (the IBIS) and intends to convert its premises into tourist hotels. NS-Poort also runs a mini chain of supermarkets in stations.

The scale of business activity of each station depends on its status in the classification system of Dutch railway stations and in accordance with the number of passengers per day. There are 360 stations in the Netherlands, classified into five categories:

  • Cathedral: with over 75,000 passengers (up-bound/down-bound) per day.
  • MegaA: with over 75,000 passengers (up-bound/down-bound) per day.
  • Stations with over 25,000 passengers (up-bound/down-bound) per day.
  • Basic stations with 10,000 passengers (up-bound/down-bound) per day.
  • Stops with under 1000 passengers (up-bound/down-bound) per day.

Policy for renovating Dutch railway stations

In the Netherlands a case-by-case policy has always been adopted as no operation is undertaken without discussion between the various stakeholders to agree on the needs and projects to adopt, focusing first and foremost on land planning in order to ensure station layouts meet planning needs.
In the city of Amsterdam the main stations also serve different types of urban centres such as the stations of Amstel and Zuid which are business hubs, while Arena railway station which is also a major station that responds to the rhythm of the city’s sports district and the crowds in the city’s main stadium, while Amsterdam Central in the tourist area plays a vital role in the management of international flows.
All stations either have been or are to be upgraded to specifically meet the needs of the area where they are located and the flows that they manage, with slight re-scoping, but also and most importantly, significantly improving the quality of service in stations remains the key challenge among all the renovation projects.
In 2013 five to six new stations have been built and five others have been extended.

**Challenges of upgrade projects

  • Urban: incorporation and interaction of stations with their environment.
  • Sustainability: responding to new European standards
  • Transport: strengthening inter-modality at station level, and the quality of service in stations.

**Problems and difficulties

  • Soil and risk of flooding.
  • Sinking of some stations, notably in Amsterdam.
  • Increase in traffic and risk of saturation.

**The aim

  • Upgrade some stations by strengthening their foundations, particularly in cities such as Amsterdam where sinking has been observed.
  • Improve station inter-modality and incorporation into the urban environment.
  • Increase station capacity.

The new trend in upgrading major Dutch stations is to define a model:
The new model of modern highly serviceable stations, with a made in Netherlands label guaranteeing the quality of service and a new European standard.

Study case, Amsterdam Central Station

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**Key figures and access for Amsterdam Central station

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**Brief history of Amsterdam Central Station

Built between 1881 – 1889 based on a design by architect Pierre J.H Cuypers and engineer Adolf Leonard Van Gendt. Building the station and laying the tracks required cutting Amsterdam off from its own waterfront, which avoided railway lines being built across the old city. The station was built on three man-made islands in the IJ lake connected by the filling-in of the canals that separated them. The sand that was used came from the North Sea Canal. Like many other buildings in Amsterdam, the station is built on 8687 wooden piles. Subsidence occurred when it was first being built, which led to several years’ delay on the project, before the inauguration of the building which took place on 15 October 1889.
The station’s roof, consisting of a 45m roof span arch of cast iron, was built in 1889. A narrower extension of this roof was carried out in 1935, but since this did not cover a number of tracks, a third rood was then built in 1999.

**Renovation of Amsterdam Central Station

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**Outline of the station’s renovation project

The station is currently being totally transformed in one of the largest renovation projects it has ever known. Set to take 15 years and costing 20 million euros, the project started in 2002 with major work carried out on the station’s foundations (pilings), in order to strengthen the foundations and create the necessary routes for the underground project crossing the city from north to south.

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Such radical renovation of the station follows the prediction that the station will reach saturation point by 2020, as well a desire to improve the quality of service in Amsterdam Central station.

With this phase of the project completed, this will be followed by an important stage of transforming the visible part of the station, extensive work which was difficult to conduct whilst keeping the station running with over 70 million passengers a year. Among the changes to the station layout:

  • Increase in the total surface area of the station with the new transit terminal
  • Increase in retail space within the station
  • Filling in roads around the station
  • Changing the main entrance on the North and South sides

The new transit terminal is an extension of the station to Lake IJ, a multimodal hub with a bus station, access to the underground and waterway shuttle service. An impressive roof will cover it all while the urban level will become pedestrianised with the filling in of roads along the banks. The work being conducted on the terminal will be completed by 2017 and the multimodal platform is currently 50% operational.

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This renovation project also aims to improve the quality of service in the station, the leitmotiv of NS for all layout changes that have been made to the station since 2010. This is based on the premise that 38% of station users are tourists, with expenditure of up to 3.8 million euros for international tourists and 4 million for national users. The decision-makers have therefore opted for a temporary spatial organisation of the station, and a targeted business strategy has been developed.

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Each part of the station has been redeveloped to hold a number of businesses and services to match the targeted customers, the time they spend in the station and their consumer habits. The station is thus organised into three temporary sections:

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