Introduction to the Dutch Railways
Well known for its windmills, canals and tulips, all of which make wonderful backgrounds to railway photographs, the Netherlands is, at the same time, a very urbanised country. This is reflected in the intensive passenger service mainly operated by the Dutch National Railways, which is known as 'Nederlandse Spoorwegen' (NS). The freight business of the national railways was taken over by Railion, while in the most recent years some small passenger train operators (Arriva, Syntus, Veolia) and many freight train operators (a.o. ACTS, ERS, R4C) have entered the market. Most of the network is electrified at 1,500V dc overhead. These factors affect the composition of the fleet which is mostly electric and dominated by multiple-units.

NS established a regular interval service in 1970 with a half-hourly weekday service over almost all parts of the network. On many lines there are four or more trains per hour! Services are carefully co-ordinated, with 3min connections common, and cross-platform interchange wherever possible. The large towns also have good metro, tram, trolleybus and/or bus service which are well integrated with rail. A national zonal ticketing system called 'Strippenkaart' allows transfer between all modes (including rail around the large towns) without a monetary penalty.

Investment in the system is continual and many upgrades have been made in recent years. The doubling of Boxtel-Eindhoven and Utrecht-Duivendrecht from 2 to 4 tracks is now finished. New short connecting railways allow direct trains Schiphol-Utrecht, Schiphol-Zaandam and Hilversum-Almere.
Completely new lines are being built from Amsterdam to the Belgian border (the "HSL Zuid" for high-speed trains Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp-Brussels-Paris) and from Rotterdam to the German border ("Betuweroute" freight-only line along the A15 highway to Emmerich in Germany). These will both open in 2007.

As with most of the European countries, Holland receives its share of foreign workings on international traffic. SNCB/NMBS class 1180 are daily visitors to Amsterdam, while class 800 EMUs work into Roosendaal and long Belgian IC trains with locomotives class 13 to Maastricht under half-power (Belgium uses 3000V DC). Other SNCB/NMBS classes can reach the two latter points in the same way. The Thalys trainsets of the TGV family reach Amsterdam with the high-speed trains from Paris.
In the East, Holland has multiple crossing points into Germany. NSR electric locomotives appear in Bentheim with IC trains and Emmerich with night trains. German diesel trainsets class 643 and 644 ("Talent") reach Enschede and Heerlen with local trains, while German electric locomotives reach Venlo with freight and local passenger trains. Arriva runs regional international trains in the north, from Groningen to Leer with their new trainsets type GTW2/6 and GTW2/8.
InterCity Express (ICE) high-speed multi-voltage trainsets operate all the way from Amsterdam through Cologne to Frankfurt. These trains pass the border between Zevenaar and Emmerich.
With freight, many new freight operators run from the port of Rotterdam to Cologne and Duisburg through Venlo or Emmerich. Some of them even without changing locomotives at the border.

In the last few years private operators have appeared on the Dutch railway network. Arriva operates GTW2/6, GTW2/8 and DM'90 DMUs on local lines radiating from Leeuwarden and Groningen, and has taken over Dordrecht-Geldermalsen from NS in 2006. Syntus operates DM'90 and new LINT-41 DMUs on Almelo-Mariënberg (for Connexxion), Arnhem-Tiel, Zutphen-Hengelo-Oldenzaal, Zutphen-Winterswijk and Winterswijk-Doetinchem-Arnhem. Veolia operates local trains on Nijmegen-Roermond (diesel) and Maastricht-Heerlen-Kerkrade (electric). Connexxion runs passenger trains on Amersfoort-Ede=Wageningen.
Private operators ACTS, Rail4Chem and ERS operate open-access freight trains on the entire network. Also foreign companies have now started services mainly to the port of Rotterdam.

NS itself was also divided into several independent companies. Freight operation is now in the hands of Railion Nederland, domestic passenger trains are operated by NS Reizigers and international trains by NS Internationaal (to be renamed NS Hispeed once the HSL-Zuid high-speed line opens). The rolling stock was divided accordingly.
The railway network is now in the hands of ProRail, which is responsible for maintenance of the tracks, operation of the signalling system and dividing capacity between operators.