Route of the HSL-Zuid
Locale Netherlands
Opened 7 September 2009
Owner NS Railinfratrust
Operator(s) ProRail
Line length 125 km (78 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 25 kV 50 Hz
Route map

HSL-Zuid (Dutch: Hogesnelheidslijn Zuid, English: High-Speed Line South), is a 125 km-long high-speed railway line in the Netherlands to the Belgian border, with a branch to Breda. Together with the Belgian HSL 4 it forms the Schiphol–Antwerp high-speed railway. Originally scheduled to be in service by 2007, the first public operations began on 7 September 2009, after a ceremony on 6 September.[1]

Intercity Direct operates between Amsterdam and Breda, for the time being with conventional InterCity carriages and TRAXX locomotives.

On 13 December 2009 Thalys began services from Amsterdam to Paris and Brussels on the HSL-Zuid.

Rijkswaterstaat, an agency of the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, was responsible for the organization of the project. The government awarded the largest ever public-private partnership (PPP) contract to the consortium Infraspeed until 2030; it is responsible for design, construction, financing and maintenance. The line features state-of-the-art technology, including ETCS level 2 train control systems provided by Siemens AG and Alcatel (activities now part of Thales), and will be an ERTMS 2.3.0 Corridor.


Track near Lage Zwaluwe.
Rail tunnel under the Dordtsche Kil

Between Amsterdam and Schiphol, and around Rotterdam, high speed trains operate on the existing line.

South of Schiphol the dedicated high speed tracks begin, parallelling the existing railway line until Nieuw-Vennep. The line then branches off eastwards, continuing along the west side of Roelofarendsveen and Hoogmade and entering a tunnel east of Leiderdorp. This tunnel was built to protect the character of the Groene Hart region. North of Zoetermeer the train line leaves the tunnel west of Hazerswoude-Dorp; it subsequently passes to the east of Benthuizen, and on an elevated track east of Zoetermeer, then back on the surface between Berkel en Rodenrijs and Bergschenhoek, and after a tunnel, joins the existing line again north of Rotterdam.

Trains run briefly on existing tracks for a few kilometres before entering the high speed line again. At Barendrecht the two tracks cross each other and the trains begin left-hand running as in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. From here the line runs next to the existing railway as well as the Betuweroute, continuing through the Hoekse Waard area, bypassing Dordrecht. South of Dordrecht, the line runs next to the A16 motorway with a branch spurring off to the city of Breda. South of Breda, the line again follows the motorway towards Antwerp in northern Belgium. At the Belgian border, it connects to HSL 4, which carries on to Antwerp, with an existing line from Antwerp to Brussels.


Since the opening of the HSL-Zuid, the number of trains has been expanded over time.

Domestic trains

On 7 September 2009, operator NS Hispeed started a domestic train service between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, weekdays only, 1 train hourly with TRAXX-locomotives and ICR-carriages with 160 km/h max. Over time, this services has been expanded. On 12 April 2010, service was expanded to Saturday and Sunday. On 4 October 2010, the frequency was doubled to 2 trains hourly. On 3 April 2011, this service was extended to Breda. This service is called Intercity Direct, until 2013 Fyra. Although a more intensive service was planned initially, this is not possible due to the V250 rolling stock problem.

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built   Remarks 
 mph  km/h 
Class 186 Traxx Locomotive 100 160 35[2]

Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Breda,
Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam

2008-2009, 2014-2015
ICRm (Prio) Carriage 100 160 60[3]

Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Breda,
Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam

V250 EMU 155 250 19

Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam

2008-2012 No longer in service

International trains

Fyra International

Fyra International was an international high speed train service operated with V250 rolling stock between Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels, 10 times daily. Due to intensive problems with V250, this service only ran for forty days, between December 8, 2012 and January 17, 2013.

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built   Remarks 
 mph  km/h 
V250 EMU 155 250 19

Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels-Central - Brussels-South

2008-2012 Not in service anymore


Thalys runs several times a day on the HSL-Zuid with speeds up to 300 km/h. After the failure of V250 and Fyra International, Thalys frequency was expanded

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built 
 mph  km/h 
Thalys PBA EMU 186 300 9

Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels-South - Paris Nord,
Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels-South - Lille Europe

Thalys PBKA 17 1997

Travel times

The new line shortened travel times for international and domestic services.

But from Roosendaal the travel times will be longer:

Thalys reported that its trains would start using the line from December 2009, with Paris-Amsterdam journeys being 3h45m and Brussels-Amsterdam journeys being 2h23m, on account of a plan to gradually increase the line speed, with the same trains in June taking 3h18m and 1h58m. However, recent timetables show that the fastest Thalys trains do these journeys in 3h18m and 1h53m, suggesting that the speed-up had already occurred.[6]

Fares and tickets

On the domestic Intercity Direct services (Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Breda) all regular NS tickets are valid. A supplement (Dutch: toeslag) is required only for travel between Schiphol and Rotterdam. This costs €2.30 (one-way, 2015).[7]

Domestic tickets cannot be used on the international Thalys trains where reservations are mandatory.


In October 2010, Deutsche Bahn announced plans to directly connect Amsterdam and Rotterdam with London, using the Channel Tunnel. This proposal would see services from London formed of a pair of DB's Class 407 international ICE units, which would then divide in Brussels, with one train to Frankfurt and the other to Amsterdam. At approximately the same time, Eurostar also announced proposals to run services direct to Amsterdam, which would use its planned new e320 trains, and would be capable of operating on the infrastructure of the Dutch classic network as well as HSL-Zuid.

ETCS problems

Initially the HSL-Zuid route supported speeds of up to 160 km/h on both the southern Rotterdam - Breda and the northern Rotterdam-Schiphol section of the line. This was because ETCS Level 2 had not commenced operations and Level 1 was still in use. Various reliability issues prevented the use of Level 2 for sustainable commercial service.[8] Another issue was that the updated ETCS software of the Bombardier TRAXX locomotives was not certified for ETCS Level 2 operation. Railway Gazette reported in April 2011 that certification had been achieved and indeed Level 2 operations began on the southern section in May 2011 with Fyra services running at up to 160 km/h and Thalys at up to 300 km/h.[9] Level 2 went into operation on the northern part of the line in September 2011 and Thalys trains were then able to commence 300 km/h operations on that section. The V250 Fyra trains were hoped to enter service in December 2011 and indeed trial service (without passengers) began using first one, then two trains. As of March 2012 driver and train crew instruction runs were taking place with scheduled, non-passenger-carrying V250 interleaved between the passenger services and it was expected that these units would begin passenger operation in April 2012. The ETCS systems of wayside (Thales) and onboard (Traxx: Bombardier; Thalys & V250: Ansaldo STS) are interworking satisfactorily. With changes in the NS concession arrangements from 2015, the HSL service was combined with the national concession. The amount of Traxx locomotives and Prio carriages will be increased over the coming years as a stopgap measure until new intercity trains (foreseen in 2021/2022) will enter service. As a first step NS announced in December 2013 that they had placed an order at Bombardier for 19 Traxx locomotives.[10]

V250 problems

The V250 trains were ordered at the Italian train manufacturer AnsaldoBreda and were delivered in mid-2009. On 31 May 2013, the Belgian railway company NMBS/SNCB decided to stop the Fyra project and refused delivery of the trains it had ordered.[11] On 3 June 2013, the Dutch national railway company NS announced that it had made a similar evaluation, and expressed its desire to stop with the V250 project.[12][13] The Dutch department of finance agreed, and recommended that NS do "everything in its power" to get a refund from AnsaldoBreda.[14] At a press conference on 6 June 2013, the manufacturer claimed that the trains had been handled poorly by running the trains too fast (i.e. at maximum commercial speed of 250 km/h) under snow conditions. AnsaldoBreda has also threatened to sue the railways for the damage to its reputation.[15][16]

On 17 March 2014 NS announced a settlement with AnsaldoBreda had been reached. The 9 NS trains will be returned to AnsaldoBreda for a refund of 125 Million Euro, 88 Million Euro less than originally paid. NS will receive an additional compensation for each resold unit to a maximum of 21 Million Euro.[17]

In May 2014, NMBS/SNCB, AnsaldoBreda and its controlling company Finmeccanica announcend that they reached a settlement that confirms the cancellation of the train orders and includes the payment of 2.5 million euros to NMBS/SNCB.[18]

See also

HSR network around the Netherlands


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