‘Dutch should freeze rail charges until infrastructure is back to normal’

Dutch access charges should be frozen until the infrastructure is managed properly by ProRail. This was a suggestion of member of Parliament Roy van Aalst (PVV). In a recent debate, he criticised the government and infrastructure manager for, among others, the stop of shunting with hazardous goods at emplacement Waalhaven in the Port of Rotterdam. This stop was put in place earlier this month as a test revealed that fire extinguishing system was not up to standard.

“ProRail has created a mess. How could this possible have happened?” he asked the Secretary of State Stientje van Veldhoven. The infrastructure has worked on the extinguishing capacity of the emplacement for a while. Although the permanent solution should be ready by the beginning of 2020, ProRail took temporary measures for the intervening period. These measures proved insufficient on 13 September, when the test was carried out.

Freeze of charges

“Is the Secretary of State willing to freeze the track access charges until the infrastructure functions properly? If she really takes the modal shift policy seriously, this would be a good gesture towards the hard-working rail freight sector”, said van Aalst. According to current plans, the track access charges of the Dutch network are to be increased.

The politician responded saying that this is not an option, as ProRail is legally mandatory to apply these charges. For damage compensation there are other means, which ensure that the financial burden does not end on the market.

Investigation

Van Aalst also asked van Veldhoven whether an independent investigation would be carried out into the core tasks of ProRail: managing the infrastructure. This investigation is now assigned to ProRail, which is considered by many as having a ‘butcher inspecting the quality of his own meat’.

The impact of the temporary closure for shunting with dangerous goods is considered to have a large impact on the rail freight market in general and the port of Rotterdam in particular. Apart from financial damage, the sector fears a lack of confidence in rail as a modality. Waalhaven is a crucial yard for the transport of containers, tank containers, trailers and swap bodies that come in and out of the port and are forwarded to destinations such as Venlo, Tilburg, Coevorden and Duisburg, but also further on to Poznan, Milan, Vienna, Budapest and China. Rail plays an important role in this hinterland transportation.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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