Betuweroute freight line takes first high-speed passenger train
High-speed international passenger trains have begun using the vital Betuweroute rail freight line linking the Port of Rotterdam and Europe’s hinterland as a result of long-term engineering works in the east of the country. Dutch rail infrastructure manager ProRail has carried out line adjustments and rigorous tests to make the custom-built freight line suitable for Inter-City Express (ICE) services travelling from The Netherlands to Germany and beyond.
As the main rail route for transporting goods from the western Netherlands to Germany – and across the continent as part of the core Rhine-Alpine European Rail Freight Corridor – the Betuweroute track is not normally suitable for passenger trains because of specific requirements regarding safety and energy supply, says ProRail.
The ICE however, it says, was an ‘exception’, so long as adjustments could be made to the route between Meteren, south of Utrecht, and Elst, some 50 kilometres to the west near the German border. Consideration was also needed for the various stakeholders involved, such as municipalities, carriers, train staff and the German authorities. The first international passenger train travelled this route on November 25.
“ProRail handled all this at a rapid pace and after a number of test drives this alternative diversion route has now been released for passenger transport with the ICE,” says the line manager. “The use of this can only be allowed by ProRail’s traffic control in exceptional cases, because the Betuweroute first of all remains a goods line.”
The Betuweroute diversion is necessary because of significant improvements being made by ProRail to the line between Utrecht and Arnhem, to enable faster trains, and part of what it calls the ‘biggest rail improvement ever in the coming years’. The ICE normally runs from Amsterdam via Utrecht to Arnhem and then on to Germany. As part of the work to prepare the Betuweroute for the ICE, engineering firm BAM also worked non-stop over a 52-hour period in the Driebergen area.