Safety Kijfhoek not in order, fines of hundreds of thousands may follow
Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail risks fines of hundreds of thousands of euros because the risk management at Kijfhoek is not in order. This jeopardizes the ‘safe driveability’ of the marshalling yard. The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) has imposed a penalty, which forces the railway manager to put safety in order within six months.
State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven informed the House of Representatives about this in a letter on Thursday 9 July. ILT explained the reasons for imposing an order to sister publication SpoorPro earlier.
In addition to the lack of insight into the state of the infrastructure and insufficient attention to risk management, the ILT concludes that agreements about safe working on the railways are not always complied with. “Despite the fact that employees signalled insufficient safety, this was insufficiently converted into measures,” said Karen Schouten, senior inspector and account holder ProRail.
To avoid the fines, ProRail must have implemented improvements on three different levels within six months. By January 2021, the railway manager must have mapped out the visibility of twenty important infrastructure elements, including switches, rail brakes and relay boxes. “These infrastructure elements must be included in the SpoorData programme. This contains configuration data and control data. This is used to map out which elements exist on Kijfhoek, but also when they were last serviced and what the performance is”, says Schouten.
The reason that the infrastructure elements have not previously been included in SpoorData is, according to Schouten, that the contract was changed in March this year. “ProRail did not want to break open the contracts for all aspects. But actually, ProRail should have had the data in order two years ago”, she adds.
Risk management in order
The second point for improvement is that ProRail must improve risk management in the event of changes. Problems arose during a contract change in March this year, during which track maintenance was distributed among contractors Strukton Rail and VolkerRail. ProRail decided to split the maintenance, which was previously carried out entirely by Strukton Rail, into two parts. The maintenance of the hill system remained in the hands of the current maintenance party Strukton Rail. From that time on, the associated rail infrastructure was done by VolkerRail.
Schouten: “Because ProRail wanted to retain the knowledge about the hill system, the rail manager decided to have this carried out by Strukton Rail in the future. But the limit for maintenance was placed over the hill system. That involved risks. We have urged ProRail to invest better.”
The third point that ProRail must have set in motion before July 30 is that all employees working at Kijfhoek must follow and complete training for safety-related tasks. As a result of stricter supervision in 2018, a ‘Game Rules Framework’ for safe working on the infrastructure at Kijfhoek has been drawn up.
From discussions that the ILT had with employees of the new contractor VolkerRail, they appeared to be insufficiently aware of these agreements. The ILT states that the railway manager, as the responsible party for Kijfhoek, is responsible for compliance with the Rules of the Game Regulation. “After incidents in 2018, we were frequently on and around Kijfhoek and then noticed implications regarding the contract change”, said Margriet van der Goot, team leader of the ILT’s Rail Department of Safe Mobility. According to her, a follow-up investigation has led ILT to impose the payment order to ProRail.
Implementation is missing
“ProRail is very good at making improvement plans, but proper implementation is missing. I think the stick behind the door of the penalty order will help in this”, said Harald Vissberg, senior inspector at the ILT. According to him, the ILT has also changed the working method. “In the past, we identified issues in the infrastructure to which we addressed the responsible manager. He then said to get started. We are now entering into a conversation with the driver, which we believe will lead to better results.”
The tracks, switches and the hill system of the Kijfhoek marshalling yard are at the end of their technical lifespan. The hill system was intended to be renewed in 2018, but the replacement has been postponed to between 2021 and 2023. Due to the outdated state of the infrastructure, Kijfhoek requires increased attention from ProRail, according to the ILT. According to the Inspectorate, something had not yet happened sufficiently.
In the summer of 2018, two incidents occurred at Kijfhoek, after which the ILT instituted stricter supervision. On Friday 15 June 2018, during maintenance work on the tracks, an empty uncleaned tank wagon collided with a truck of contractor Strukton Rail. The collision slightly damaged the tank wagon, trolley and rails. The ILT investigation shows that the workplace safety leader did not comply with the workplace safety instruction. The ILT notes that deviations from safety procedures are more common.
On Sunday, July 15, 2018, a set of rail cranes started rolling within a decommissioning operation in Zwijndrecht. In addition, this set of rail cranes passed a workplace where track workers were working, then rolled out of service and came to a halt after 3.5 kilometers on the Kijfhoek freight yard. The rolling set of track cranes damaged two switches. The track workers were able to get to safety on time. The ILT established that contractor VolkerRail and the carriers have not taken the safety rules into account sufficiently.
In May of this year, an inspection of all 160 switches on the site revealed that nineteen did not meet the recently tightened requirements. Seven switches had to be immediately taken out of service for maintenance. Train traffic at Kijfhoek had to be stopped, which has led to a lot of frustration among rail operators.
Response from ProRail
In a response, ProRail says that it has ‘taken note of the LOD and the results of the investigation’ and that it is discussing this with the ILT. “We have recently started an improvement project and updated the maintenance contract at Kijfhoek. We are also working on an action plan to improve the quality of the rail infrastructure on the freight yard.”
According to ProRail, it will be ‘a lot of extra effort’ for the rail manager and contractors in the coming years to put the situation around the Kijfhoek railway yard in order. The rail manager expects the investigation and discussions about this to contribute.
Freight trains are assembled at Kijfhoek. The freight wagons come from the Rotterdam port area and are automatically sorted at a final destination in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe. In this sorting, ProRail uses a hill, whereby wagons are pushed over the hilltop and automatically roll over the track to a certain final destination via various switches.
Tens of thousands of freight trains depart and pass through Kijfhoek every year to and from various destinations in the Netherlands and Europe. With 50 hectares, 43 distribution tracks, 14 arrival tracks and 12 stabling tracks, Kijfhoek is the largest freight yard in the Netherlands. Kijfhoek is located between Barendrecht and Zwijndrecht and connects the Dutch ports with large industrial areas in the Netherlands and Europe.