Dutch railway yard Kijfhoek resumes operations this afternoon

Train traffic on Dutch railway yard Kijfhoek will largely be back to normal from this afternoon, 26 May, 3pm. The three main switches on the site are currently being repaired. According to infrastructure manager ProRail, this takes away most of the obstacles for rail freight operations at Kijfhoek.

The railway yard has been unavailable for about 80 per cent since last Tuesday, as nineteen of the 160 switches proved not to meet the recently tightened requirements. Seven of these had to be taken out of service immediately. The other twelve were subject to further inspections. A number of switches were back in use last Friday, but others were rejected again. In total, there were six switches completely out of use and two in a fixed position, dated Tuesday morning.

Thermite welding

DB Cargo, the sole user of the railway yard in the Netherlands, commented on the news with ambiguity. “By the completion of the repair, the sorting process of wagon loads gains in quality. Nevertheless, there are still infrastructure restrictions on Kijfhoek and there is still no normal business situation. DB Cargo deploys additional staff to minimise customer nuisance. Some of the sorting activities also take place at marshalling yards in Germany”, the Dutch division of the operator said.

According to ProRail it was an enormous task to get the three switches ready for use within a week. 28 adhesive and thermite welds must be installed within 24 hours. “That is a lot of work and especially thermite welding is a very complicated process, which requires specialised welders”, said ProRail in a statement. “These welders have been sourced from all over the country. That worked out. We are very grateful to the contractor for his flexibility and effort.” It is yet not clear when the remaining switches will be put back in use. According to the infra manager, the repair of these switches is less urgent, because they are less important for train movements on the railway yard.

Background

The nineteen switches with deviations came to light when analysing the data that a measuring train collected at Kijfhoek at the end of April. According to ProRail, the fact that a relatively high number of switches appears to be not satisfactory can be explained by a combination of circumstances.

First, there are the quality requirements that have been adjusted upwards. This means that switches that were still satisfactory during the previous inspection could now be rejected. In addition, the change of contractor or the more intensive control by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) could play a role, the organisation argues.

Inconvenience

The circumstances at Kijkhoek have led to inconvenience for the sector, as the availability limitations lead to radiation effects in the Waalhaven, Maasvlakte and Antwerp, according to Hans-Willem Vroon from interest group RailGood.

He adds that it is not the first incident at the railway yard. Last month, two switches were also locked due to problems. That time, it was about expired safety certificates. “It is yet another proof that ProRail does not have its asset management under control. Why was the contractor not able or allowed to determine this?”, Vroon wondered in response on Linkedin.

Author: Paul van den Bogaard

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