Dutch Train Stations

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 11.25.18I saw him just ahead of me, a young man carrying a white cane walking confidently towards the escalator at Utrecht Central Station. What I knew and he could not know was that the escalator was under repair and there was a gaping hole just a few paces ahead of him.

I took his arm gently and said “you need to take the stairs today, the escalator is broken”. He walked with me to the top of the stairs and there I stepped to the right so that he would be back on the guided path set up for the visually impaired. He understood where he was and wandered off into the insanely busy station, the busiest in the country.

It’s a challenge to move around a city without being able to see your surroundings, but NS, the Dutch national railway company has taken a big step in making it easier for visually impaired people to get around the country. As of late 2017 all railway stations in the Netherlands became accessible for the visually impaired, this includes;

  • 90 km of guide lines through stations
  • sound tiles
  • braille signs
  • tactile maps in the four biggest stations of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag and Rotterdam
  • 5000 spoken route descriptions

The 350,000 blind or partially sighted people living in the Netherlands can use the stations more easily. Of course the rest of us need to take care not to leave obstacles in the guide lines and keep an eye out when repairs are underway, but this is brilliant.

Image: Rotterdam Centraal Railway Station  |  Alan Grinberg  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



Amsterdam’s Airport; 100 Years of Schiphol

This year Schiphol Airport celebrates 100 years. Here’s a bird’s eye view of how it developed over that time created by the Stadsarchief (City Archive). It starts back in 1852 when the area was still a polder.

Overheard in Amsterdam #654

I was on a train at Amsterdam Centraal, heading east to Bijlmer. There had been some train delays and we were waiting to depart, there were a lot of “runners”, desperate to catch the train after the conductor had already blown his whistle.

Passenger 1

Does this train stop in Utrecht?


Yes, come aboard.

Passenger 2

Does this train go to Eindhoven?


Yes, jump on.

Passenger 3

Den Bosch?


Yes, yes, move down the carriage please.

(He then closed the doors and the train began to move).

Welcome aboard the 11.40 train to Zandvoort!

*For those not up on Dutch geography, Zandvoort is in the opposite direction.

Overheard on the Train

The trains here have silent carriages, marked with “Stilte/Silence” on the windows. In these carriages you’re supposed to be silent. No phone calls, minimal chat. Silent. It’s a rule that’s taken seriously, and there’s always someone in the carriage who will play policeman if you do chat. Which is what happened today.

On the train today a man from the UK answered his phone, and stayed on it chatting.

A Dutch man got up and pointed to the sign on the window that says silence.

UK man waved his hands and kept chatting.

This was repeated.

Then UK man got up and went to talk to Dutch man – still in the SILENT carriage. This was the exchange.

UK Man

Could I just explain, I’m here in the Netherlands researching what happened my family during the war and that’s what the calls were about.

Dutch Man

That’s fine; you need to take the calls out of this carriage.

Ferry Commuters – Amsterdam

Need to practise, but I like the idea of showing the fast ferry turn around at Amsterdam central station.

A Cultural Mashup

Wandering through Amsterdam Central Station this morning I bumped into a Bobby and a Beefeater. Both speaking Dutch and offering sweets, I know you’re not supposed to accept sweets from a stranger but I made an exception. The text on the sweets says “Drop me off in London”, and the sweets are liquorice allsorts. “Drop” is Dutch for liquorice. It’s a small joke to promote NS’s (the national train company) service to London.

Tickets are on offer for as low as 59 euros, there’s a train an hour and the trip takes about 4 1/2 hours.

If only I liked liquorice.

Open Day at Amsterdam Central Station

“Come and see how we build it” is the slogan on this banner and it refers to an open day at Amsterdam Central Station tomorrow. If you’ve been through central station recently you’ll know it’s a building site, in fact it’s been that way for years. When it’s finished the new station will be fantastic. Tomorrow, between 10am and 4pm you’re able to visit the site.

Amsterdam Central – a New Station

Amsterdam Central Station is being renovated – it seems to be taking forever, and it’s hard to imagine what the final result will be. I found this – it looks really good. Just one question; I don’t see anything about where I will be parking my bike.

The commentary is all in Dutch – here are the highlights.

  • Amsterdam Central Station was designed by Cuypers and built between 1881 and 1891 and sits on a man-made island
  • new bus station on the Ij side of the station known as Busstation Ij-zijde will have one large platform with 24 bus stops around it
  • the island is now 30 m wider, and the new glass roof of the station is 230m long and 22m high
  • there’s a new main entrance, accessible directly from the bus platform
  • traffic goes via tunnel, leaving space for shops etc
  • on the lowest level there will be access to the Noordzuidlijn (North South Line) from 2017, and connection to the Eastern metro line
  • There will be a new area for taxis on the Ij side of the station, allowing travellers to wait in shelter
  • There will be a new shopping centre with restaurants etc
  • There will be access under the station from the city to the Ij, so that people can go through without an OV chip card

More Fun with Fireworks

On Wednesday I had trouble getting home, there were no trains. Here’s why;

Three young guys started a fire on a train, causing damage to two train cars, the evacuation of 90 people (some of whom were on their way to Schiphol – hope they got their flights), and delays for thousands of people as one train track was closed temporarily.

The police have stated that fireworks were involved.

The idiots, young men who did this have been arrested, and if it was a question of fireworks they were using the fireworks illegally. But the existing laws are not properly enforced.

The Russians Were Here

A Russian submarine might top the list of things I didn’t expect to see in Amsterdam.

I took a trip from Amsterdam Central Station to NDSM, on one of the local ferries (and the trip is FREE), and there, in the harbour, is a Russian submarine. I don’t think we’re in any danger of a take-over by Putin though, after a bit of research I found that this was purchased by some Dutch entrepreneurs some time ago.

They had the mad idea of making it into a party venue. I think the idea was to moor it somewhere and have parties – not to be using it as a vessel, because the engine takes up a lot of space in a submarine, leaving no room for the DJ. The idea has a certain novelty value, but I suspect safety requirements got in the way. There’s only one way into a submarine, and fire departments generally want you to have an alternative exit. Plus not much fun for claustrophobes. With the failure of this plan the submarine is now awaiting being turned into scrap metal.

It’s a Zulu class submarine, the interior has apparently been stripped out, but you can see photos of a working interior at the Comtourist site, and see a compilation video of a Zulu submarine at work.