6-day closure of Rotterdam’s Harbour Line starts today

Theemswegtrace bridge

Starting Tuesday 2 November, the Harbour Line to the port of Rotterdam is closed for all traffic. This will last until Monday 8 November. Throughout this week, the newly constructed Theemsweg route will be connected to the railway line of the port. The official opening of the new route is on 15 November.

The Theemswegtracé, a viaduct of more than four kilometers long, replaces the Caland Bridge for rail freight transport. This is good news for rail freight. The Caland Bridge was outdated and needed to be replaced. It was also opening too often for shipping traffic, putting freight trains at a standstill. This bottleneck will be resolved with the new structure, which is an elevated railway viaduct, including 2 metal arch bridges.

The route

The Theemsweg route runs from Merseyweg, on a railway viaduct alongside Theemsweg, all the way up to Moezelweg via Neckarweg. The railway line passes two arched bridges (near the Thomassen Tunnel and the Rozenburg Lock) and links up again with the existing track where it meets the A15 motorway.

The new route should provide greater capacity on the track. Currently, there are between 90 and 100 trains per day on this line. The aim is to have 230 trains up and running by 2030. And this is necessary, because freight transport to and from the port of Rotterdam is increasing every year. The Theemsweg route will significantly improve the railway capacity and accessibility of the Rotterdam deep seaports with the European hinterland.

The project

The project had a long run. Preparatory work started in 2016. A year later, in 2017, the cycle path was relocated. In 2018, the bridge was raised ten meters and part of the concrete windshields were removed and replaced in a different location. Sound-proof walls of 1.70 meters were also installed to dampen the noise of the trains racing by as much as possible.

The works cost 300 million euros. Due to the relocation of cables and pipes, that budget has been slightly exceeded. That took more work than anticipated. The workmen also came across a sewer pit from the 1960s, which had to be worked around, which cost extra time and money. Of that 300 million, 62 million was paid as a subsidy by the European Union. The rest of the amount comes from the national government and the Port Authority.

Line closure

Although the freight industry is generally happy about the new structure, it is also anxious. The Harbour Line has never been closed for so long. Regular shutdowns take place at pre-arranged times, when the international logistics industry is at rest. That is not the case now.

“In this case, rail freight traffic continues across the border, so the production chain will be disrupted. It will take a total of three weeks before port logistics are back to normal. In week 1 it will be phased out, in week 2 the train traffic will come to a halt and in week 3 we will build it up to align with international traffic again”, explained Arjan Olsthoorn, programme manager at ProRail earlier.

‘More is needed’

Now, week one has commenced. The fact that the Calandbrug is finally being replaced is fantastic, commented Hans-Willem Vroon, Director of RailGood earlier. However, the fact that the 6-day closure is not planned at a quieter time causes a great deal of inconvenience and extra costs for rail freight transport and customers.”

He also reminded that “to transport more freight by rail, more is needed than only taking this beautiful piece of new infrastructure into use: a significant improvement in the reliability and 24/7 availability of the railway infrastructure in the port of Rotterdam, less customer nuisance due to well-coordinated construction works on the railways, also in an internationally, and a substantial reduction in the costs of using the railways are elementary”, he said.

Also read:

Harbour Line Rotterdam closed for 6 days this fall for new viaduct

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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