NS placed an initial order for 19 locomotives in December 2013 and subsequently exercised an option for 18 additional units last June.

The final batch of locomotives, which will be equipped with ETCS level 2, are essential for the improvement and expansion of domestic inter-city services from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, The Hague and Breda via the HSL South high speed line.

Since the abandonment of a plan to operate ICRm sets in push-pull mode on these services, punctuality has become a contentious issue. NS has decided to operate trains in top-and-tail mode with a class 186 at each end of the train, eliminating the requirement for locomotives to run round the train and reducing shunting movements at stations.

Top-and-tail operations may also be introduced on the hourly Amsterdam Central - Brussels Midi Benelux services, which will be rerouted via HSL South with a reversal at Breda from December 2017. These services will no longer call at The Hague, Dordrecht, and Roosendaal.

Traxx locomotives and ICRm coaches will therefore be deployed on four services operating via HSL South:

  • Amsterdam Central - Rotterdam Central
  • Amsterdam Central - Breda
  • The Hague Central - Breda - Eindhoven, and
  • Amsterdam Central - Breda - Antwerp Central - Brussels.

In addition to its own locomotives, NS also leases 20 Traxx locomotives from Alpha Trains and Macquarie Rail. Alongside the Dutch locomotives Belgian National Railways (SNCB) will continue to use multi-system Traxx locomotives leased from Alpha Trains on Amsterdam - Brussels services.

NS train maintenance subsidiary Nedtrain is currently carrying out a programme to upgrade the ICRm coaches used on these services, which includes the installation of retention toilets. NS has hired two sets of I6 and I10 coaches from SNCB to cover for the ICRms during the refurbishment programme.

Traxx/ICRm operation will continue on the Amsterdam - Brussels route until at least 2025, when 200km/h Intercity New Generation (ICNG) EMUs equipped for operation in Belgium are due to enter service. Alstom has been selected as preferred bidder for the ICNG contract and NS hopes to finalise the order during the summer.