Dutch rail freight sector will not miss resigned government
The Dutch government coalition led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned at the beginning of July. Many industry players in the Netherlands voiced their disapproval of how the rail freight industry was managed throughout the 19 months in which the Rutte IV coalition was in power. The main issues highlighted were the failure to contain the rise of infrastructure charges and the scarce implementation of ERTMS.
Among the most vocal against the actions, or lack thereof, of the former Dutch government was the rail freight association RailGood. The association said it will miss the policies of the former Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management Vivianne Heijnen “like a toothache”. Moreover, RailFreight.com reached out to rail freight companies including Rail Bridge Cargo and Samskip, with both companies saying they were negatively affected by the Rutte-led government.
Failed ERTMS implementation
One of the points on which all parties agree is that the Dutch government did not do enough to efficiently implement ERTMS on the country’s railways. The industry is lamenting the deficiencies in ensuring interoperability with the ERTMS implemented in Germany. The German railway on the border with the Netherlands is in fact equipped with ERTMS Level 2. On the other hand, the Dutch are still holding onto their own automatic train protection system, (ATB), thus not making ERTMS rollout a priority.
Similar concerns were shared also by Rail Bridge Cargo and Samskip, which both claimed that the different systems between Germany and the Netherlands are a significant cause of slowdowns and disruptions. Moreover, it looks like the ATB system is going to stay in place for a while. As RailGood highlighted, “only part of the Dutch railway network will be equipped with ERTMS before 2031”. The Netherlands is lagging behind when it comes to ERTMS implementation also compared to its other neighbour, Belgium. More than half of the Belgian railways are in fact already equipped with ERTMS.
Increasing infrastructure fees have not been contained
RailGood, for example, underlined that fees for marshalling and shunting freight trains in 2023 increased sixfold compared to 2022. The subsidies allocated by the Rutte IV coalition only reduced it by one-third, which still means a fourfold increase compared to 2022. “This cabinet was not keen on achieving a level market playing field between modes of transport”, RailGood stated.