Dutch track access charges to be lowered to ‘German level’
Dutch track access charges will be reduced significantly next year to be in line with the German tariffs, which will be reduced by half this year. This is part of a measure package proposed by the Dutch government and various rail freight industry parties to create a level playing field for the Dutch rail freight sector.
The measures come after years of negotiations held with the Spoorgoederentafel, a platform consisting of rail freight operators, shippers, seaports and Dutch rail infrastructure manager ProRail. The aim is to increase rail freight volumes to 54-61 million tonnes in 2030, from 42 million tonnes in 2016. Apart from lowering the infra charge, the government will utilise national and European funds to facilitate the transition to ERTMS, and modifications will be made to enable driving with longer trains, up to a length of 740 metres.
A grant amount of 12 to14 million Euros will be made available per year, starting in 2019 and up until 2023. This should lead to a considerable reduction of track access charges from beginning next year, the ministry said. The measure will be evaluated in 2021, it noted.
For the introduction of the digital railway safety system ERTMS, the government has committed to making every effort to provide national and European funds. The transition to ERTMS, which is considered to be complex, will be set up in such a way that it enables a healthy profitable growth of rail freight transport.
More capacity will be created for trains up to 740-metre in order to level with similar plans in Germany, reducing costs of transport for shippers. Moreover, efforts will be taken to operate quieter rolling stock and eco-friendly locomotives, and research will be carried out into possibilities for low-vibration bogies.
“Our economy is growing and so are rail freight volumes. With this platform, we try to encourage the use of rail for the transportation of freight as much as possible. In this way, road traffic is reduced and this is good for the environment. Today, we have taken a great step forward, by gathering our joined goals in one package of measures”, commented the Secretary of State.
Difficult state of affairs
According to Hans-Willem Vroon, Director of lobby organisation RailGood, these are necessary conditions for rail freight transport to make an important contribution to limiting freight transport by road and emissions that harm the climate. According to him, the sector has been in a difficult economic state of affairs for a while now.
Vroon is especially critical of the rollout of ERTMS in accordance with the policy of the European Union. “The replacement of ATB by ERTMS is a major long-term task. For freight transport operating companies, the costs of investments in On Board Units and the risks as a result of significant technological uncertainties and very long rollout period are such that this threatens viable business operations and disrupts the level playing field.”
The House of Representatives has been informed about the plans on Tuesday 19 June. The Spoorgoederentafel will now work out short- and long-term plans to realise the measures.