Our guide to travelling on the iconic double-decked Dutch Intercity trains will tell you all you need to know, from boarding, to making the most of the journey experience.
Accessing the train
Attributes of the train
Which country these trains operate in.
These double deck trains are fundamentally different to the single deck ‘Intercity’ trains operated by NS in The Netherlands; hence we have made the distinction between them.
The majority of the double deck trains that are used by Dutch rail operator NS, on many of its Intercity services/routes in The Netherlands are technically known as NS VIRM trains.
NS takes a no-frills, functional approach to its express trains, but as very few journeys take more than a couple of hours, the lack of a wow factor doesn’t matter at all.
These NS VIRM trains being gradually re-furbished and those that have been modernised have new seats, WiFi is also now available on these updated trains.
Whether a train has been refurbished or not, convenient info screens are available, which show the routes, the next calling point and available connections, as shown on the image (Amsterdam C.S. = Amsterdam Centraal)
These NS VIRMs are the usual trains on these routes:
(1) Alkmaar – Amsterdam Centraal – Utrecht – s’Hertogenbosch – Eindhoven – Maastricht
(2) Den Helder - Alkmaar – Amsterdam Centraal – Utrecht – Arnhem – Nijmegen
(3) Amsterdam Centraal – Haarlem – Leiden – Den Haag HS – Delft – Rotterdam – Dordrecht
(4) Amsterdam Centraal – Haarlem – Leiden – Den Haag Central
(5) Enkhuizen – Hoorn – Amsterdam Centraal – Amersfoort – Deventer
(6) Amsterdam Centraal - Leiden – Den Haag HS – Delft – Rotterdam – Dordrecht –Roosendaal – Vlissingen
As can be seen above, most Intercity services to/from Amsterdam Centraal are formed of NS VIRM trains.
However, these NS VIRM trains are also used for other Intercity services, on routes they share with the single deck ICM trains.
On some of those other routes (particularly those to/from Den Haag Centraal and Rotterdam Centraal) multiple NS VIRM trains can be joined together for part of the journey.
The trains are then separated (most commonly at Utrecht, Amersfoort or Zwolle), so check on the info screens in each coach, to confirm that you are travelling in the part of the train that is heading to your final destination.
Seat reservations are NOT available on these trains, seats cannot be reserved, seats may not be available in all coaches on the busiest trains.
So if possible avoid travelling away from large cities between 17:00 and 18:30.
On some routes only a range of hot and cold drinks as well as snacks will be available from a trolley that will be pushed through the train.
The routes on which these service can be available are shown in this page (though the page is in Dutch, the routes are listed under 'NS Reizigers').
Dutch national rail operator NS encourages a quieter, more business like atmosphere on the UPPER decks of these trains, by deploying Quiet Zones in which mobile phones can’t be used etc.
Most of the 1st class seating areas are Quiet zones
Look for the symbol on the outside of the trains showing a red line through a phone.
If you’re travelling in a group of friends etc and want to chat and be generally sociable, NS would PREFER it if you travelled on the lower deck.
Seats cannot be reserved on these trains, so whether you opt to sit on the upper or lower decks is therefore up to you.
The layout of the seating is more or less the same on either deck, but the upper decks can feel more cramped if you are tall.
Whether a coach is 1st or 2nd class is indicated by numbers ‘1’ or ‘2’ on the side of the coaches, but some coaches contain both 1st and 2nd class seats.
On coaches that have both classes, glass doors separate 1st from 2nd.
When entering by SOME doors, the 1st class will be on the upper deck, while 2nd class is on the lower deck, but the reverse can also be true.
So if you have a 1st class ticket/pass, take your time to work out where you need to board and what your options are.
There is no information on the spoor/platform/track to indicate where to wait on the spoor/platform for easy boarding into 1st class.
When the train arrives the 1st class seats may be up to three coaches away, so the best option can be to board by any door and then walk through the train to find the 1st class seats.
One other thing worth knowing is that the doors will not open automatically, but the button on the outside of the trains, which needs to be used when boarding, is some distance from the doors.
At the station:
The platforms at Dutch stations aren’t zoned, so people tend to gather at the entrance points on a platform/spoor, near to the electronic train departure indicators.
So to increase your chances of finding a seat and having a less stressful boarding, move away from the crowds, but don’t go too far.
Double deck Intercity trains can be between 4 and 10 coaches long, but the departure information on the electronic indicators on the platform/spoor doesn’t show how long a train will be.
If a train is busy, then moving through the train to look for spare seats, is easier on the upper deck.
Exiting the train:
On the interior, when exiting the train, there are arrows that will indicate which button will open the doors.
NS is the national railway operator in The Netherlands and it doesn’t allow bicycles to travel on any of its trains between 06:30 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 18:30 on Monday-Friday – except during July and August when there are no time restrictions.
Bikes can be taken on board any train at any other time, including weekends, if you purchase a bike pass for €6.90 - this pass known as a ‘Fietskaart Dal’ has a flat rate price, so it doesn’t matter how far you will be travelling.
An unusual feature of travelling with a bike on NS trains is that tandems can also be taken on board.
Bikes can only be placed in the dedicated bike spaces and because they can’t be reserved, there’s no guarantee that room will be available.
Although neither your train ticket, or bike pass, will be restricted to specific departures, so if need be you can simply take the next train – most routes have departures at least every 30 mins
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This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.