International accessibility by rail

Expected June 2020
International train connections leave much to be desired. Why is that? Where are the obstacles to better rail accessibility? What is needed to bring the international accessibility by rail to and from the Netherlands to a substantially higher level?
photo high speed train at the station

Background and request for advice

The Netherlands has a well-functioning domestic railway network for passenger transport, but, with a few exceptions, train connections to and from abroad leave much to be desired. Travel times are too long, connections are poor, purchasing tickets is difficult and prices are high. These and other problems arise as a result of a number of factors that hinder international rail accessibility to and from the Netherlands. This involves more than missing links and technical/physical limitations in the infrastructure. There are also 'soft' factors such as a lack of available travel information, problems with international ticketing, pricing, incompatible international regulations and a lack of willingness to cooperate that hinder better accessibility.

The central request for advice that the Council wishes to answer is: How can obstacles that stand in the way of better accessibility (to and from the Netherlands) by rail be removed?

The Council sees a number of social objectives to which improved rail accessibility can contribute. Improved accessibility is good for the economic development of the Netherlands and strengthens the business climate. It boosts tourism, which is of both economic and socio-cultural importance. Fast and frequent international trains can replace short and medium-haul flights as well as international road traffic. Passengers can opt for a safe and less polluting mode of transport by international train, thereby contributing to reducing road congestion and pressure at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

As part of this process, opportunities for cooperation with a number of European fellow advisory councils will be explored. The advice may also be addressed to the European Union.

Scope of the advisory process

In this advisory report, the Council focuses on accessibility for passenger transport. The Council estimates that advice that also deals with rail freight is too extensive and too complex to be drawn up within a reasonable lead time. Freight transport, however, is relevant in so far as it affects passenger transport by rail, and it is also interesting to learn from the comparison between passenger and freight transport.


This advice is expected to be published in June 2020.

Composition of the Council Committee

Jeroen Kok, Council member and committee chair
Niels Koeman, Council member
Co Verdaas, Council member

External committee members

Wijnand Veeneman, associate professor, TU Delft
Frank Witlox, professor of economic geography, Ghent University

Information or response: 

For more information, please contact Tim Zwanikken, project manager,, +31 (0)6-52874404.