How an inland waterways lock reconstruction helps rail grow in the Netherlands
The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure has decided to reconstruct the Sluis II multimodal complex near Tilburg, Southern Netherlands, and allow larger ships to pass through it. Sluis II is located on the Wilhelmina Canal and is critical for multimodal connectivity in the broader Benelux area. The latest development is also particularly good news for Barge Terminal Tilburg (BTT) engaging in inland waterways-rail transport.
“You have everything in Tilburg to get freight traffic from the road to inland waterways,” said the outgoing Dutch minister of infrastructure and water management, Mark Harbers, to Dutch media. “There are rail connections, there are pipelines. Then, it is important that we can also start using this, not only for Tilburg but for the whole region. We want to submit the project plan this year and then start the tender. I think it’s realistic that we can start working with a contractor in 2025.”
Harbers’ words will be music to the ears of BTT director Wil Versteijnen. BTT is a family business in sustainable container logistics, with its own barge and rail terminals in Tilburg, Eindhoven and Bergen op Zoom. Goods come to Tilburg from all over the world, and from there, they are transported further by water or rail.
The company has one rail and two inland shipping terminals in the vicinity of Tilburg, southern Netherlands. The company operates 14 ships and two locomotives of its own. Versteijnen compared his company’s business to a kitchen while speaking to Dutch media. “The ports are the cooks; we supply and serve. Without us, the kitchen gets stuck. Rotterdam has signed an environmental covenant stating that by 2030, no less than 65 per cent of containers must enter the country by rail or barge, no longer by truck. That’s only about 40 per cent now.”
Larger ships mean more rail volumes
Versteijnen had one more problem: larger barges from Rotterdam cannot pass through the outdated Sluis II, and BTT is forced to unload them at its Vossenberg terminal northwest of Tilburg, which is not very convenient considering that this could occur in their central Loven terminal in Tilburg which also accommodates rail. BTT has bought land next to the existing port infrastructure in Loven to build a new terminal where ships, trains and trucks will converge. “That way, we can put the containers from the ships straight onto the trains and vice versa.”
Now that the Sluis II issue is being addressed, BTT is also getting rid of that problem, and the company can grow even further. Versteijnen, therefore, has big plans. Thanks to an investment of millions, he will soon have a place where inland waterways and rail come together. “Then we can unload all the ships there and receive, load and send 700- 700-metre-long trains onto the track.”
This article was originally published on our sister publication SpoorPro.nl