Getting from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station for Wheelchair Users

I started this post with the goal of helping wheelchair users navigate the hardships introduced by the Dutch railway company, to find they have made it much harder for wheelchair users to use their trains specially from/to the airport. Here is the story.

If you are traveling to Amsterdam airport and have to get to the city center, and you use a wheelchair, you only have two options.

  1. Train: It is the fastest (20 minutes to Amsterdam Centraal, and it comes every 10 minutes), but you can’t access it. Most of the trains are not wheelchair accessible, and NS has the worst process for helping wheelchair users, here is how it works:
    • You have to know in advance – even if you are a first time visitor to the country – that you have to call a number to request wheelchair assistance. This is different from for example Deutsche Bahn where the wheelchair user has to just go to the front of the train and the driver will come out and assist them.
    • You have to call this number one hour in advance, meaning you have to know which exact train you are taking, when are you getting out of the airplane (since wheelchair users come out last), and how long it takes to go through passport control, and luggage collection.
    • If you miss the train you booked, even though they come every 10 minutes, you have to call again and count the hour from the beginning.
  2. Take a mix of bus and subway, which will take you on average 90 minutes to get from the airport to the central station.

Given all this and how inconvenient it is, most of the time I had to get an Uber which costs around 30 Euros. However, there was a workaround. I was writing this post to show you the workaround, to only discover the Dutch railway company NS, removed the information from its app.

NS has some train models running between the airport and Amsterdam Centraal which are new, and platform level. They don’t need assistance to get on/off, the only risk is sometimes they are a bit far from the platform, so you might need someone’s assistance to help you jump the small space in between if you can’t do it yourself.

What you had to do to find these trains was to download in advance the NS NL App, and as soon as you are in the airport you connect to the free airport wifi, search for trains going to central station, then one by one, you search for the ones with the wheelchair icon as in the picture below (which I took from NS NL website) because there is no filter for wheelchair accessibility on the app.

By the time I started writing this post, I wanted to post some screenshots so I downloaded the app, I noticed something strange. The wheelchair icon was gone. It didn’t make sense to me, since I knew the sprinter running between the Airport and Hoofdorp passing through Central Station is mostly flat level. So I asked NS on twitter, and they confirmed that the icon is now removed!

One of the reasons I left Amsterdam was transportation wheelchair accessibility. I had big problems with the Amsterdam transportation company GVB. If I stayed in the country I was going to sue them because of their discriminatory policies and their workers’ attitude (this needs a separate post as I have interesting email exchanges with them). NS isn’t any different but at least I thought I can help those who don’t know since I lived for a year there and suffered a lot to use the train (specially to/from the airport). Now they made it even worse.

After all I said, there is still a workaround, although it is not guaranteed to work all the time as having the wheelchair icon. On the NS app, you can find a picture of the train model that’s coming. Since all the accessible trains are Sprinters, this narrows the search to few models.

Inaccessible Sprinter
Accessible Sprinter: It can be distinguished by its more arrow shaped front. Also one characteristic I noticed about the wheelchair accessible sprinter is it doesn’t have a bathroom (you won’t find the WC icon), however this is a theory that needs confirmation.

I asked NS about the arrow shaped image, and they confirmed it. You can find the tweets here, and here.

Thanks NS, maybe you should also remove the train models from the app so you can make it harder.