Rail freight dangerous goods faces ban on two Dutch routes
Rail transport of dangerous chemicals through the Netherlands may face ‘route enforcements’ if measures announced by Dutch government are to be implemented end of this year. Secretary of State Sharon Dijksma (Infrastructure) has proposed to ban certain freight from two main rail lines forcing rail operators to the Betuwe route, a corridor considered to be a safer option.
Rail freight of dangerous chemicals in the Netherlands has been a topic of debate, as transport over the regular rail network is considered to be a risk for the safety of residents in the vicinity. This is especially true for the connection Amersfoort-Apeldoorn (Bentheim route) and Eindhoven-Venlo (Brabant route), popular freight corridors to and from Germany. The risk ceilings in place are exceeded too often, believes Dijksma. Although these violations have decreased since end 2016, more stringent measures may be needed to come to complete adherence of the sector to the rules in place.
The measures are a draft plan in case negotiations with the sector do not result in a desirable reduction of exceedings of the risk ceiling, Dijksma explained. Negotiations have been going on for a year, and she hopes that the parties involved will do what is needed before the end of this year. Alternatively, a ban will be implemented applicable to freight transport of flammable gasses and very poisonous liquids in the chemical categories A and D4 on the Bentheim and Brabant route.
The ban would not be in place if the Betuwe route is not accessible or available, or if the destination can only be reached via the routes where the ban is in place. This is an important condition, as the Betuwe line has been criticised for its lack of capacity due to ongoing or delayed development works. Moreover, the connection with Emmerich and Oberhausen in Germany will not be materialised in the next few years, forcing freight operators to the Bentheim and Brabant routes.
The proposed ban leaves space for concern, however. Especially train operators seem to be effected by the measures, in the first part because they may face higher costs using the Betuwe route. Although access charges have been levelled with those on the Bentheim and Brabant lines, operations may become costlier due to a longer distance crossed, or because not all locomotives are equipped to access the ERTMS-system applicable on the Betuwe route, explained Hans-Willen Vroon of RailGood, a trade organisation for the transport industry.
According to him, the ban also brings along practical difficulties, as rail operators do not always know the details of their shipment in advance long enough to make adjustments to their transport route. Also in such case, the cost and consequences are for the operator. Moreover, these factors do no contribute to the position of the Netherlands as an international rail freight partner, he concludes.
The proposed measures have been laid out to the rail freight sector with a possibility to respond. The deadline for this response is the 14th of September, 2017.