NETHERLANDS Railways (NS) filed a request to operate open-access international services with the Dutch Consumers and Markets Authority (ACM) on June 13, the deadline for requests for open-access services from 2025 onwards.

NS is following similar applications by Flixtrain, Arriva Nederland and Italian State Railways (FS) subsidiary QBuzz, except that NS is applying for services it is already involved in operating in partnership with other operators, namely Eurostar services from Amsterdam to Paris and London, as well as trains to Frankfurt am Main and Berlin with German Rail (DB), and Vienna and Innsbruck with Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB).

Filing requests for open-access international services is related to the new Main Line Network (HLN) concession, which the Dutch government plans to directly award to NS. International train services within the Netherlands will be incorporated as much as possible in the concession which will come into effect in January 2025. However, NS was afraid of losing the right to operate these services if it failed to apply to the ACM.


The Dutch government is trying to maintain its control over the operation of international train services despite the opening of the market to competition within the European Union under the Fourth Railway Package.

Despite this open market, requests for international open-access services had to be filed with ACM before June 14, otherwise open-access services will not be permitted in the Netherlands. In addition, service frequencies cannot be increased after submitting the request.

Mrs Vivianne Heijnen, secretary of state for infrastructure, will consider the requests for international services and decide whether to award them as a single package to one operator, for which NS seems to be the favourite, or to open the market to competition with several operators allocated paths.

The European Commission (EC) has already warned the Dutch government not to breach European regulations. The EC says there are strict conditions which must be fulfilled before a direct award contract to NS can be considered.