NS: From No Service to No Stress

Possible improvements for the “Nationale Spoorwegen” based on the value sensitive design.


When travelling with the Dutch public transportation train company NS there is one thing that you will probably notice. There is a lot of room for improvement. Lucy has to go to work 5 days in the week and in the weekend she often goes to a museum in another city. Lucy will tell you her opinion of the design and the the possible improvements.

 Does the NS have a value sensitive design?

A value sensitive design aims at making values part of technological design. So basically it is a design in which values are of importance. So the question is: does NS include values in its design?

When looking at NS and its underlying values you could say it is a value sensitive design. It is for example quite sustainable. Especially when looking at the Green train initiative or comparing the ecological footprint of one train passenger to that of someone going to work by car.


 Lucy: I think the green train initiative is very good and I enjoy feeling like I am part of a sustainable way of transportation.”

There is however room for improvement. We will look at the following values: equality, reliability and safety.

Firstly reliability; let’s be honest; when you really need to be somewhere in time you either have to leave super early or go by another form of transportation. Countless amounts of time has Lucy been at the platform while a friendly female voice was telling her bad news. There were no trains, her train would be late or she should take another train which will take her an hour longer. Now think back; you have probably had the same experience once or twice.

 Lucy: ,, I have been late for work so many times. Currently it is so bad that whenever I have an important meeting I will drive instead of taking the train.”



Secondly equality, when considering equality in public transportation the first thing that comes to mind for me is equal access. This equal access could be improved for NS in two ways. Tickets are currently very expensive and trains can only be used by a select group in the public. The economic equality would improve by creating slightly less expensive tickets which would make transportation with NS better accessible for the public. Another way in which equal access can be improved is by improving the amount of people for whom it is useful. This could already be done by increasing the reliability, which would make less people choose for other, currently more reliable, alternatives.




Lucy: ,, Train tickets are quite pricy, during the week I have an OV-card so my company will pay for my expenses, but in the weekend I often carpool with my friends to save money. A lower price ticket price would really help.”




Finally safety, trains are often so packed that they will get dangerous. People need to stand and when a train stops or switches tracks, people can easily fall. This is why it would be wise to increase the capacity, allowing more people to sit which will make trains saver. Also there are still loads of suicides by jumping in front of trains, this is not just a safety concern for the jumpers, but also for NS’s own employees because of the trauma it entails.  This is why it would be wise to innovate on how to decrease this problem. Maybe by decreasing the accessibility to the tracks. 

Lucy: ,, It would be nice not having to stand in the train so often, usually you can’t even hold anything to stop yourself from falling. The trains are way too full.”

To summarize it would be a good idea to improve the NS using the value sensitive design.  This value sensitive design is a good way of including values in the technology. Values evolve around human wellbeing which is essential in public transportation. NS would do good to look into these possible improvements. If for nothing else, it would make Lucy very happy. 


Translation (not literally):  

Man on the left:,, Sir, this is a ticket from yesterday, it is no longer valid."

Man on the right: ,, Just imagine how long I had to wait for my train!"