Freight train in Netherlands, source: ProRail

It is now or never for Dutch Rail Terminal Barneveld

If it is up to the Dutch city of Barneveld, the modal shift will be realised in the Veluwe region and ‘Rail Terminal Barneveld’ will be built. The idea has been around for years and Barneveld can’t count on the help of higher powers, but the city in the province of Gelderland still hopes that the terminal dream becomes reality one day.

Sitting in the train from Amersfoort to Apeldoorn and looking outside the window after passing Barneveld-Noord train station, you will see an unmissable site full of waste. A kind of mountain landscape. This is where the municipality of Barneveld would like to build the local rail terminal.

Not discouraged

A subsidiary of the relevant waste processing company Vink, AZ Industrials, was also the driving force behind the terminal plans for many years, but in the summer of 2019 a letter of intent expired and AZ Industrials announced that it “no longer sees itself as an investor/operator”.

The municipality of Barneveld was not discouraged by this, partly because the company remained willing to make land available. According to the municipality, five hectares of land are available, and an additional five hectares can optionally be purchased to expand the terminal with warehousing activities.

Growth ambition

Encouraged by a fresh research report called ‘Barneveld sustainably accessible’, the municipality now thinks it can make the rail terminal a reality. Stravimi and Executive Touch, two consultancy firms based in Barneveld, held ‘in-depth interviews’ for the study with fifty entrepreneurs from Barneveld and the Foodvalley Region, the partnership of the agricultural sector in Barneveld and seven neighboring municipalities (Ede, Nijkerk, Rhenen, Renswoude, etc. Scherpenzeel, Veenendaal and Wageningen). Of all the companies surveyed, not one was interested in operating a rail terminal.

An experienced party in the rail sector has to get that job done, and if that succeeds, according to the researchers, there are enough entrepreneurs that will make use of it. “Companies are looking for other transport options. For example, use is already being made of surrounding rail terminals or terminals where it is possible to switch to barge.”

Volumes don’t lie

Especially between Barneveld and the port of Rotterdam the surveyed entrepreneurs have to transport quite a few containers, the researchers calculated. Last year, 33,700 TEU’s of cargo went from Barneveld to Rotterdam. In the opposite direction this was 18,000 TEU’s. The volumes between Barneveld and the hinterland were more modest: 3,700 TEU’s in both directions.

Although many of the containers are transported by road, thanks to government policy (truck levies, rail subsidies) rail will gain in importance, the advisers say in their report. The rapporteurs even warn of economic decline in Barneveld if there is no terminal. “If the rail terminal is not built, the growth ambition of the municipality of Barneveld will be nullified. Few or no new companies will be attracted to the region because other locations are simply more attractive in view of the new regulations (nitrogen/CO2).”

Quite a bit of help

The Barneveld entrepreneurs do not have to be under any illusions about subsidies or other financial government support for the rail terminal. “The realisation of a rail terminal is only possible when private investors want to invest”, the advisers know. The municipality itself will not invest and the same applies to the province of Gelderland.

Member of Parliament Mark Smits (VVD) recently asked the provincial government whether Barneveld deserved some support for the terminal plans, which according to Smits, “increase the logistical strength of Gelderland”, but the provincial executive did not share his enthusiasm. The province is “not against” the terminal and is even willing to offer quite a bit of help, but does not provide active or financial support.

Supra-regional interest

According to Gelderland, attempts to obtain money in The Hague also have little chance, “because the government sets a number of conditions for a contribution. One of the conditions is that it must be a national or supra-regional interest. This is not met at the Barneveld rail terminal.”

A terminal which does meet this requirement according to the province is Valbrug, a little bit further south.That is why the province of Gelderland is focusing all its efforts on this terminal instead. The irony is that in the case of Valburg, it has always been the municipality, Overbetuwe, that was not exactly overflowing with enthusiasm for the plans and had to be convinced about the realisation.

Traffic increase

Barneveld’s politicians are sympathetic to the local terminal plans, although not unanimously, as was shown in a committee meeting at the beginning of April. One of the local parties noticed that the new research report “does not say a word about the traffic volumes that will increase enormously in our municipality in order to supply and remove all these containers from companies outside our municipality”.

The report writers were indeed not particularly neutral. In fact, one of the authors, Gijs Eartikelenboom of consultancy Stravimi, is now, in his role as chairman of the Barneveldse Industrial Circle (BIK), the man who, together with the municipality, is trying to get an operator for the intended rail terminal.

Essential route

Alderman Didi Dorrestijn-Taal is “very happy” with the results of the survey and said that the municipality “is still positive about the ambition and the initiative to realise a cargo transhipment facility”. “Where necessary, we are committed to taking this initiative to the next phase.” According to the local press, the alderman has indicated that an operator must be found before the summer. It seems now or never for Railterminal Barneveld.

The consultants see the role of the rail terminal as a hub on the Rotterdam-Bad Bentheim route, as a third option for rail transport between Rotterdam and Germany, in addition to the Betuwe route (Rotterdam-Valburg) and Brabant route (Rotterdam-Venlo). “It is essential for the Central Netherlands area that Barneveld will function as a hub. This is because the route via Valburg does not run along the much sought-after and essential Bad-Bentheim route”, the research report reads.

Trailers

According to the report, destinations in Northern Europe (Sweden), East Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia can be served via Bad Bentheim. And according to the researchers, the terminal can also serve a considerable area in the Netherlands: experienced terminal operators swore to the Barneveld advisers that the terminal could be of interest to companies within a radius of a hundred kilometers.

And if the rail terminal not only handles containers, but also bulk goods and trailers, the market opportunities will increase further, the consultants think. According to them, the same applies to additional services such as warehousing. But everything stands or falls with trapping that private operator who wants to take his chances. That can be an independent operator, or a terminal network that is already operating elsewhere, according to the Barnevelders.

Author: Paul Jumelet

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