Our goal for 2019 is to deliver the best possible performance, keeping in mind the midterm review, by continuing to make passengers, passengers and passengers our top priorities.
In 2018, we fleshed out our new vision for the future and mission with a view to making sure the Netherlands remains accessible. Based on the new mission and vision, we are working out the strategy for the Netherlands for 2020 onwards. In 2018, we worked on the strategic course for NS in the Netherlands. The strategic choices will be worked out in detail in mid-2019, after which we will transition from the previous strategy, Spoorslags Beter, to the new one in 2020.
In 2019, we want to maintain current performance levels and improve them where possible. That is the best way to make sure that people will continue to choose the train. HSL South will continue to require attention in 2019. Together with ProRail, we are working on making improvements within the scope of possibilities offered by the system and the trains. We also continue to invest, as ever, in improvements for passengers. For example, we are working on a nationwide roll-out of the seat searcher feature in the NS app. So far, this feature shows the location of empty seats in the train on certain routes. We are also coming up against the limits of infrastructure capacity because of increasing passenger numbers, and the limited availability of combining and handling capacity may eventually be a restricting factor. We are collaborating with ProRail on measures to tackle this problem where possible. Another improvement planned for 2019 is that we want to offer rail passengers alternative travel options in the event of a disruption.
Passenger numbers on the HSL South are expected to grow further in 2019. In 2019, we will be adding almost 20% to the capacity by introducing one extra train an hour as of December 2018 and one extra carriage in every Intercity direct train as of the start of 2019.
Eurostar and NS are holding talks with the relevant authorities to reach agreement on the legal framework for passport controls in the Netherlands. Eurostar has also announced that a third train per day will run between Amsterdam and London as of June 2019. In 2018, NS put a fast connection between Amsterdam and Berlin on the agenda. In 2019, we aim to investigate this plan further with Deutsche Bahn and governmental bodies.
The first of the 206 new Sprinter trains from the Spanish train manufacturer CAF started operating in December 2018. The New Generation Intercity trains will start coming into operation in 2021. The first trains will be leaving the factory in 2019, and the process of testing, authorisation for use and training will start. NS will be upgrading a total of 80 double-decker train sets with 415 carriages in the period to 2020. The first modernised trains from this series will start running in 2021. The expectation is that all 131 Sprinter trains of type SLT will also have been upgraded by the end of 2021.
Improvements in the timetable for 2020
NS has made a number of suggestions for improvements in the 2020 timetable that have been submitted to passenger organisations and regional authorities. NS wants to cut journey times and improve changeovers in key areas. We also want to increase the number of trains per hour where possible. This would, for example, reduce journey times for Sprinter passengers in the northern Netherlands and increase the number of Intercity trains between Amersfoort and Utrecht from four an hour to six. There will also be additional Sprinter trains between Harderwijk and Amersfoort. In the summer, NS wants to run six trains an hour to the resort town of Zandvoort aan Zee rather than four. A comparison with the 2019 timetable shows that these proposals would cut journey times for 51,000 passengers and increase journey times for 5,500 passengers. Around 95% of passengers would see almost no change in their train journey. The 2020 timetable comes into effect on Sunday, 15 December 2019.
Sixteen stations are currently undergoing renovation work, including Amsterdam Zuid. Last year, Almere, NS, ProRail and the provincial authority of Flevoland started preparations for the improvement of Almere Centrum station and its immediate surroundings. In Utrecht, NS and partners are redeveloping the Cartesius triangle: around 2,600 homes are due to be built here starting in 2020, in what is designed to be the healthiest and friendliest neighbourhood for public transport and bicycles in the Netherlands.
In the period to 2020, we will be converting around 30 Kiosk outlets into StationsHuiskamer outlets, mainly at smaller stations throughout the Netherlands. We will also be installing water taps at 222 stations. The aim is to have enough by the end of 2019 that 90% of all rail passengers in the Netherlands pass a water tap during their journey.
In 2018, Abellio UK submitted bids for the Southeastern franchise (a 60:40 partnership with Mitsui) and the East Midlands franchise. The results will be announced in 2019. In December 2018, Abellio Germany started operating the Dieselnetz Sachsen-Anhalt and Rhein-Ruhr-Express franchises. The Stuttgarter Netz (STN), S-Bahn Rhein-Ruhr (SBRR) and Ruhr-Sieg-Netz (RSN2) will follow in 2019.
NS is continuing to invest in improvements for passengers, but the financial results will need to improve over the next few years if NS is to remain capable of financing these investments independently. We will be able to absorb some of the increase in costs through expected growth in revenues but we are also implementing programmes aimed at improving the financial results.