Long freight trains turning heads from next year in Venlo, the Netherlands
Running long freight trains to and from the Dutch terminal Venlo can be done with an obstacle less next year. Requests for changing directions at this yard can no longer be rejected. This was ruled by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), after a complaint had been filed on the address of infrastructure manager ProRail.
ProRail’s preconditions currently state that the so-called ‘turning heads’ of long trains at this yard is not allowed. In practice, this means that trains longer than 650 meters are not allowed to change direction at the Venlo yard, nor are they allowed to stop at the yard longer than 30 minutes. In case of a train length of 690 meters, this stop can only be five minutes.
On the Sittard-Venlo-Germany route, however, it is necessary to change direction due to the layout of the track. The current situation would be particularly disadvantageous for rail operator Captrain, because the company uses long trains on this route. The restriction means that the company is forced to use the Gekkengraaf yard and drive 20 kilometers from Venlo, which leads to longer travel times and higher costs.
Not the right procedure
These conditions have been included for the first time in the network statement of the year 2022 and were to be included in the statement of 2023, which takes effect in December this year. However, the latter has been reversed after interest group RailGood, on behalf of a number of rail freight operators, filed a complaint about several aspects of the conditions. ACM has ruled that rejecting the turn of longer freight trains was not done according to the correct procedure.
ACM has come to the conclusion that applications for capacity should not simply be refused. The infrastructure must first be declared ‘overloaded’ if ProRail expects to be unable to allocate capacity requests. That was not the case in Venlo. ProRail should then have carried out a capacity analysis and substantiated measures that could increase capacity. According to the ACM, ProRail has disadvantaged carriers such as Captrain by not following this procedure.
This has no consequences for the year 2022, because the term for submitting complaints about the content of the network statement for this year has already expired. However, if freight transporters want to change direction in Venlo in 2023, ProRail must allow this if possible. The preconditions may not be applied to requests involving trains that make headway.
ProRail does not have to make a capacity analysis because it is now too late for this. From 2024, however, ProRail must follow the correct procedure for determining capacity problems when determining the new network statement.
This article is an amended translation of the original version on Nieuwsblad Transport.