Freight train on Betuweroute. Photo credit: ProRail

Traffic volumes Dutch Betuweroute plunge in 2018

After a year of growth, traffic volumes on the Dutch Betuweroute witnessed a decline once again in 2018. The share of rail freight transport via the Dutch-German border crossing Zevenaar and Emmerich fell to an average of 46 percent in the first three quarters of 2018. In 2017 it was 57 percent.

The figures stem from a letter of Dutch Secretary of State Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure and Water), in which she informed the House of Representatives about the progress in the implementation of the Measures Package for rail freight transport, the Betuweroute and the Third Track in Germany. In doing so, it relies on figures from ProRail.


Although full year figures are not yet known, volumes on the dedicated freight line amounted to 4,700 trains in Q1, 4,800 in the Q2 and 5,050 in Q3. With a total number of 23,950 trains in 2017, the yearly volumes are expected to have fallen.

The Betuweroute witnessed its best year in 2014, when 25,100 trains passed the freight line connecting the Netherlands and Germany. The numbers then dropped to 22,900 in 2015 and 20,400 in 2016, the lowest number in the past seven years. In 2017, the number of trains increased by 17 per cent.

Construction works

The decrease can largely be explained by ongoing construction work of the Third Track. The trains are mainly diverted via the Brabant route. The share of the use of the Venlo – Kaldenkirchen border crossing has risen to an average of 39 percent in the first three quarters of this year. In 2017 it was still 29 percent.

Once the connection with Germany is completed, the Betuweroute is expected to achieve its full potential. The forecast is that between 34,500-37,500 trains will travel along the corridor in 2025. These volumes should reach between 37,000-43,000 in 2030. For this prognosis, the anticipated decline in the transport of raw materials is taken into account.

Third track

The Dutch part of the Third Track will soon be operational, but the construction of the German part will provide the necessary disturbance in the coming years. Both in 2019 and 2020, operators must take into account a one-sided maintenance of the Betuweroute of one week each month, with a double-track lock-out during the weekend and a long-term single or double-track lock-out of more than forty days in the months of July and August.

The German rail operator DB Netz has also announced its construction plan for 2021. According to Van Veldhoven, this shows that the construction rate will be increased in that year. As a result, for a large part of the year, the route will be taken out of service on the single track and occasionally also on the double-track. “The intensification is favourable for the final delivery, but in 2021 it will have an extra impact on the diversion routes through Brabant, Limburg and Gelderland”, the company wrote. Van Veldhoven asked the Steering Group for the Third Railway to look again at the measures that were already taken in 2014 to ensure that freight trains are diverted.

The Netherlands-Germany

The total volume of rail freight transport between the Netherlands and Germany will reach the same level in 2018 as in 2017, Van Veldhoven further expects. In 2017 there were 42,850 freight trains between the Netherlands and Germany. In the first three quarters of 2018 these were 10,600 (first quarter), 10,250 (second quarter) and 10,900 (third quarter).

In 2017, there was still a decrease in the total freight transport by rail as a result of less coal transport compared to 2016. “The stabilisation indicates that the decrease in coal transport is compensated by the growth of other transport flows on the railways”, according to the State Secretary.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

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