Concerns in the South of Netherlands about increasing number of hazardous goods trains
Last year, the railway line crossing the Dutch West Braband province saw the transportation of 8,000 dangerous goods tank wagons. This yearly number may increase fivefold in the coming years-reaching 40,000. Municipalities in the region want clarity as soon as possible on the expected increase. Mayor Bernd Roks of Halderberge called for this issue to be put on the agenda of the cabinet formation.
The government had announced that the transport of hazardous substances over the Moerdijk-Halderberge-Roosendaal railway line would increase significantly since 2013. “I am very concerned about this. We are the ones to suffer because this is the shortest and cheapest route for trains between Antwerp and the Betuwe line,” said Mayor Roks in a conversation with Omroep Brabant.
According to ProRail, this will not be such a big issue, as the number of approximately 8,000 tank wagons has been stable for some years. The possible number of 40,000 wagons is an estimation aiming to navigate municipalities in their new building plans. That is where Roks sees a significant bottleneck. “West-Brabant is locked in. The government wants us to build houses, but we are hampered in doing so. Prioritising freight railways takes away our chances to expand.”
Underground freight railway can be an alternative
The Mayor is also concerned about the contents of the wagons. Highly inflammable substances such as LPG and propane, together with ammonia and the highly toxic acrylonitrile, pass right through Zevenbergen, Oudenbosch and Roosendaal. “When you see all the stuff that passes through here, it can be quite frightening”, says Roks. In January, the contractor BAM started work in the places mentioned above to ensure that, in an accident, no liquid or polluted fire extinguishing water could end up in open water or houses near the railways. The mayor calls the measures “short-term solutions … for the show”.
Roks, therefore, wants to talk to the Drechtsteden region in South Holland. In this way, he hopes that his struggle for attention over the subject will have results. What he advocates for is an underground freight railway between the municipality of Woensdrecht and the town of Steenbergen. The estimated costs reach almost four billion euros, but the mayor feels that this is justifiable. “Compare those costs with the added value of the houses that we cannot build in Roosendaal, Halderberge and Moerdijk”.