Fire extinguishing test at Rotterdam Waalhaven

Moment of truth for shunting yard Rotterdam: is it fire proof?

On 13 January 2020 ProRail carried out a fire extinguishing test at Waalhaven Zuid, an important shunting yard in the port of Rotterdam. This yard has been closed for freight trains transporting hazardous goods for the past four months, because a previous test proved that the fire extinguishing facilitities were not up to date. If the latest test has a positive result, the temporary closure will be lifted.

All necessary tests have been carried out, according to infrastructure manager ProRail. The test results are now being examined by the Rotterdam Environmental Protection Agency DCMR and the Regional Safety Authority Rotterdam Rijnmond. The DCMR will decide whether freight trains transporting hazardous goods will be allowed to shunt again on the yard. Until then, the shunting of wagons with hazardous goods is temporary prohibited.

Hard hit

On Friday 13 September it became clear that the fire extinguishing water facilities of the shunting yard of Waalhaven do not meet the safety requirements. ProRail halted shunting with hazardous substances immediately, as the fire brigade and the ProRail incident prevention team would not be able to perform their work properly, they stated.

The temporary closure was received by the industry as a hard hit for the hinterland transport by rail. The shunting activities have mostly been relocated to Kijfhoek, the largest emplacement of the Netherlands. Although a large part of the operations remained are up and running, it came at the expense of extra manpower and longer lead times.

Time frame

ProRail expects a decision by DCMR later this week. “If everything goes well, the very expensive user restrictions for transport with dangerous goods at Waalhaven will be removed this same month”, commented Hans Willem Vroon, Director of lobby organisation RailGood. The plan is that in 2023 the temporary provision will be replaced by the definitive solution.

“However, if the results are not positive, the problems for the rail freight industry remain.” 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, but is also at fierce competition with the road.

Bad timing

“That is exactly why a hit like this comes at a bad time”, commented Arnoud de Rade, Manager Director at Rotterdam Rail Feeding after the closure was announced. “The demand was surging, and we were making steps ahead with new measures taken to improve rail as a modality. But an event like this supports the idea of customers that rail is not reliable as a transport option. It is a setback for us as a sector trying to generate confidence in rail freight.”

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, but is also at fierce competition with the road.

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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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