Arriva and Qbuzz request access for trains between the Netherlands and Paris
Competition for the Thalys between the Netherlands and Paris may just arrive within several years. Both Arriva and Qbuzz have officially requested to operate trains in open access to Paris. Qbuzz also made a request for trains to Berlin, as well as track access on a domestic line.
While there is currently only one option for travellers between the Netherlands and Paris via rail, this might all change now that a process has been set in motion: Arriva and Qbuzz are invoking European ‘Open Access’ legislation on rail. Qbuzz has lodged an application for three train connections with the Dutch competition watchdog ACM, it announced on Monday. These are Amsterdam-Paris, Amsterdam-Berlin via Hengelo or Arnhem, and Amsterdam-Eindhoven. The operator plans to start operating on these routes from January 2027. Qbuzz used to be owned by NS, but has been part of the Italian state-owned FS Group since 2017.
Last week Arriva, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, put in a request with the ACM to run trains between Groningen and Paris, via Amsterdam South station, Schiphol en Rotterdam, from June 2026.
Timing is no coincidence
The fact that two operators have now requested international connections from the Netherlands is no coincidence. The Dutch government plans to include international lines in the new main railway network concession, which it will award directly to national operator NS for the period 2025-2035 at the end of this year.
“The State Secretary of Infrastructure and Water Management has made it clear that if no initiatives for international train services are made by 10 June, the lines will be included in the main rail network concession. So we wanted to be ahead of that”, a spokesperson of Arriva told Dutch sister publication SpoorPro.
Also Qbuzz also had this in mind. “We neatly submitted this application before 10 June, as requested by the state secretary”, said a spokesperson to SpoorPro. Qbuzz assumes it will get clarity on the applications within two months. Noteworthy is that Qbuzz is not only applying for two international lines, but also for the domestic Amsterdam-Eindhoven route. One of the most important national connections, it will in all likelihood be part of the main rail network concession, as it is now. As it is planned to be directly awarded to NS without a market consultation, this rocks the boat of the ministry’s plans.
“Our applications, as well as those of other bidders, once again underline the importance that a market analysis should indeed be carried out. The omission of a market analysis is not only contrary to European legislation, but also a missed opportunity to realise innovation on the railways, compete with air traffic and contribute to the government’s climate ambitions”, says Qbuzz.
Supported by its shareholder FS, Qbuzz is convinced that similar success is possible in the Dutch and Northern European rail market. Qbuzz CEO Gerrit Spijksma: “The knowledge of the technology, (international) implementation and execution already exists: the Italian high-speed Frecciarossa is already running in Spain and France. It seems inconceivable to me that the Netherlands would close its market to such possibilities.”
Groningen as new international hub
While Qbuzz plans to run trains from Paris to Amsterdam, Arriva plans to continue them to Groningen, in the north-east of the Netherlands. Arriva is keen to see Groningen as a new international hub, also in the run-up to the arrival of the ‘Lelyline’. This proposed new railway line in the Netherlands, connecting Groningen to Amsterdam via a faster route, was recently added to the European TEN-T network, and is therefore more likely to receive EU subsidies, and therefore one step closer to realisation.
“This application is actually also a preparation for the Lelyline”, the Arriva spokesperson states. The company says that in the future, it wants to make more requests for train traffic from several regions in our country to Belgian and French cities, among others. “We are already running [from the Netherlands] to Germany, will also go to Belgium at the end of this year and we want to go to France as well”, they said.