NETHERLANDS Railways (NS) has reported an operating loss of €26m for the first half of 2023, a significant improvement on the €225m loss reported in the first half of 2022. However, NS says the results do not reflect those of a sound operator and admits that it is likely to encounter further financial challenges in the coming years due to the changes in passenger habits since the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Netherlands is travelling by train more often again, but we have still substantially fewer passengers than before Corona,” says NS CEO, Mr Wouter Koolmees. “This is displayed in our financial results. While our task in society remains essential we are continuing to make financial losses.”

NS recorded turnover of €1.88bn in the six months to June 30, compared with €1.32bn in 2022. This includes €195m from NS subsidiary Abellio’s activities in Germany, an increase from the €158m reported in 2022.

While passenger-km increased by 24% compared with the first half of 2022, an average of 1.1 million weekday passengers is still short of the 1.3 million reported before the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, NS says that weekend leisure travel is increasing, while passengers are travelling longer distances on average.

Services on the Main Line Network (HRN), which are operated by NS under a concession granted by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure, continue to be loss-making despite the increase in turnover. NS cites strong cost increases associated with attracting new staff, in particular operating personnel, inflation and wage increases as the reason for this loss-making performance.