Three other suppliers, Bombardier, Siemens, and Stadler Rail, were invited by NS in January to submit bids in the best and final offer stage.

Around 80 trains are likely to be ordered in the initial phase, defined by NS as "25,000 seats," and the contract will include options for additional sets. It has been reported that Alstom is offering a single-deck design based on a rolling stock platform from its existing range.

Alstom achieved the highest overall score in the bidding phase, which included criteria for reliability, investment costs, maintainability, energy efficiency in energy, traincrew working environment, after sales support, and the authorisation process.

With the preferred bidder selected, there will now be an appeal period before the contract can be signed. NS says it will continue to work with Alstom to finalise the order after its decision becomes irrevocable, and the operator aims to sign a contract during the summer.

The ICNG fleet will enter service from 2021, replacing IC rolling stock dating from the 1980s and 1990s, including ICM three and four-car single deck EMUs and single-deck ICR locomotive-hauled coaches. The new trains will be the backbone of the intercity fleet, operating on both the Dutch conventional network and the HSL South high-speed line.

Onboard features will include passenger Wi-Fi, USB power sockets, passenger information screens, LED interior lighting with "intelligent light control."

The train will be compliant with TSI-PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility), with retractable steps and accessible toilets.

Alstom takes NS to court over Fyra procurement

The timing of the ICNG announcement was ironic as it coincided with the filing of a legal claim by Alstom against NS which seeks compensation for a previous intercity EMU procurement, the botched acquisition of high-speed trains for Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Brussels Fyra services in 2004.

Irregularities in the tendering process were uncovered during last year's parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of Fyra. NS awarded the contract for new high-speed trains to the Italian train manufacturer AnsaldoBreda, which were withdrawn shortly after commercial services began operating. Ultimately both Belgian National Railways (SNCB) and NS reached a deal with AnsaldoBreda to return the 19 trains to the supplier, which subsequently compensated both customers.

Alstom had been selected for the final phase of the tender alongside AnsaldoBreda and during the inquiry it emerged that Alstom's bid was €9m lower than that of its rival, while the AnsaldoBreda train had 12 fewer seats. However, NS informed AnsaldoBreda that its bid was higher, giving the Italian supplier an opportunity to alter its design and offer a lower price, even after the deadline had passed.

The inquiry concluded that NS had given AnsaldoBreda preferential treatment which meant the required equality between both suppliers did not exist. The change in the AnsaldoBreda offer is considered to be a serious irregularity in the tender procedure and the inquiry committee stated that Alstom was not given a fair chance of winning the tender.