NETHERLANDS Railways (NS) has issued its draft 2024 timetable for consultation with regional governments and passenger organisations, as required under the terms of its Main Line Network concession, which covers 95% of total rail passenger-km in the Netherlands.

After considering responses to this consultation, NS will complete drafting of the final timetable in June and will then submit an application for the necessary train paths to infrastructure manager ProRail.

NS says that the new timetable has been influenced by changing travel patterns and lower passenger numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic and NS notes that fewer commuters are returning than expected. With many people now working from home, the height of the peak is now busier on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Fridays even quieter than before.

At the same time, NS has experienced operating difficulties due to staff shortages.

In the draft timetable, NS has proposed introducing a regular-interval Intercity (IC) service operating every 10 minutes during the day, from Monday to Thursday, on the Rotterdam Central - Schiphol Airport - Utrecht Central - Arnhem Central route.

On routes with an IC service every 10 minutes during the day, there will be regular-interval IC and stopping Sprinter services every 15 minutes in the evening and at weekends. This will avoid the irregular pattern of trains running every 10 or 20 minutes.

NS is also proposing the reintroduction of regular interval services every 15 and 30 minutes off peak and at weekends, these having been withdrawn due to staff shortages.

Peak hour services will also be restored from Monday to Thursday, and to a lesser extent on Fridays.

IC service levels on the Breda - Schiphol Airport - Amsterdam Central route via the HSL South high-speed line will be increased by three trains an hour, including one Amsterdam - Brussels service, providing a total of five trains an hour once again.

The draft timetable contains changes to the Sprinter service on the Almere - Zwolle - Meppel line, including the introduction of a direct service between Lelystad and Leeuwarden.

On other international routes, the IC journey time between Amsterdam and Berlin, currently taking 6h 5min, will be cut by 30 minutes. NS will lease multi-voltage Siemens Vectrons from European Locomotive Leasing (ELL) to remove the need to change locomotives at Bad Bentheim on the German border.

Infrastructure enhancements on the ProRail network are also helping to accelerate Amsterdam - Berlin IC services, including remodelling the track layout at Oldenzaal station.

NS reports that the capacity of Thalys high-speed services, now being rebranded as Eurostar, will be increased to Amsterdam on Fridays and Sundays. Timetables and rolling stock deployment will be adjusted to reflect passenger demand on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

However, there is no clear plan yet for introducing the regional service from Aachen main station in Germany to Heerlen and Maastricht in the Netherlands and Liège Guillemins in Belgium, nor for the new IC services between Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Aachen.

The Stadler Flirt 3 multi-system EMUs that Arriva will operate on the Aachen - Liège route have yet to obtain authorisation, while studies are still underway for this new service.

NS and manufacturer Alstom are also developing a variant of Intercity New Generation (ICNG) EMU suitable for operation in Germany.