New Dutch government, new funds for infrastructure
The new Dutch government will structurally set aside 1.25 billion euros to make up for backlogs in the maintenance of Dutch infrastructure. This was announced on Wednesday 15 December, when the government presented the coalition agreement.
With infrastructure it means not only railways, but also roads, bridges, viaducts, and waterways. The government will maintain, renovate and replace them if needed. What this means for the rail freight network is not yet clear, but the news was generally received well by the industry.
“In any case, it is good that considerably more money is being spent on the management, maintenance and renewal of the infrastructure. The basics must be in order”, said Hans Willem Vroon, director of RailGood, an association representing the railway carriers in the Netherlands.
What will be spent when?
The investments of the government will accumulate over the years, as becomes clear in a funding scheme that was published along with the announcement. Where this comes down to 75 million euros in 2022, the financial impetus is 1125 million euros in 2026.
What was noteworthy for rail, albeit for passenger traffic, is the 3 billion euros made available for the construction of the Lely Line, which will eventually connect the northern part of the country with Germany.
No mention of northern freight route
Although good news for international train travel, what is missing here is mention of a northern branch of the freight dedicated Betuweroute, a long-held wish of the freight industry. This northern branch could route goods from Rotterdam to Germany and further to Eastern and North-Eastern Europe. At present, most of the products’ transportation takes place via the German town of Bad Bentheim.
The Dutch rail freight sector provided input to the development agenda of the previous government in February, through the Market Vision Ambition Network Rail Goods document. In this document, the sector identifies the goods’ routing as one of the main issues looking for resolution.
More efficient infrastructure
If you ask Vroon, there are a lot things that remain to be done. “I am curious whether, in addition to the Lely line, there will also be sufficient budget for much-needed expansions of rail capacity. In any case: the upgrading of the rail network to enable 740-metre-long trains to run in green waves at 100 km/h and 22.5 tons of axle load (that really encourages rail transport).”
A positive aspect of the new coalition agreement is that the new cabinet will involvs European funds in investments to create better cross-border connections. Although this is not further specified, this is good news, as it was urgently needed, said Vroon. “Opportunities have been missed here in recent years, so let’s catch up quickly.”