Rotterdam’s Harbour Line remains point of attention

Photo: Frans Berkelaar, Flickr

On average, the condition of the Dutch rail infrastructure was good, the number of disruptions remained the same as the year before, and the number of safety incidents decreased in the year 2020. However, the Harbour Line of Rotterdam remains an important point of attention. This is the conclusion drawn by infrastructure manager ProRail in its recently published report State of Infrastructure 2020.

Although ProRail has started to eliminate overdue maintenance on the Harbour Line, this will take a few more years. The minister and the state secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management write this in a letter to the House of Representatives. They also promise that the House will be informed about the latest state of affairs with the improvement programme for the Harbour Line before the Christmas recess.

Practice versus theory

The overdue maintenance on the Harbour Line was the reason for an investigation by Crisislab in 2020. One of the recommendations in the final report was a better link between the situation in practice and the theoretical lifespan of the infrastructure. Since then, ProRail has integrated the information from measurements and inspections with the theoretical service life, as determined on the basis of service life tables and policy. This makes it possible to determine the remaining lifespan more accurately and to schedule replacement in time. According to ProRail, this approach has now been used for the ‘Rail’ and ‘Bridges & Tunnels’ systems, and will be extended to the other systems in the coming years.

Furthermore, according to ProRail, a number of systems in the rail infrastructure are not designed for additional transport demands and other rolling stock. According to the rail manager, it is therefore necessary to invest extra in the maintenance of the rail infrastructure to enable further growth. ProRail is counting on a production growth of 35 per cent in the next three years. “The infrastructure is already reaching its limits for a number of systems”, the report reads.


In order to facilitate growth and gain insight into the consequences for the rail infrastructure system and the resources required for this, ProRail has started several programmes including the Traction Energy Supply Program (TEV), the Track Body programme and the current transition to ERTMS. ProRail is also working on themes such as climate adaptation and level crossings. These technical challenges and their financing are the subject of follow-up discussions between the ministry and ProRail.

In addition, ProRail introduced the TWAS program – Future-proof working on the railways – the Masterplan process. All work on the track is planned in this plan on a multi-year, integral and coherent basis. TWAS is working on a new method, coordinated with all parties in the sector, with as little disruption as possible. To ensure that the amount of nuisance does not increase proportionally with the amount of work, and that the costs for maintenance and construction are reduced, work is, for example, combined.

Third track

There is also earlier and better communication and coordination with the sector parties. Nuisance is expected for the main railway infrastructure from November 2024 – May 2026 as a result of construction work on the third track in Germany. The House of Representatives was informed about this in the letter to parliament on the progress of rail freight transport of 14 December 2021. The ‘less nuisance’ plan is expected to be discussed next spring in the Steering Committee Third Rail Germany.

Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor of and chief editor of the ProMedia Group online magazines.

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