Image: ProMedia

The Netherlands digs out 10 million to overcome train nuisance, but from which pocket?

photo by ProMedia: Betuweroute

The Netherlands is investing ten million euros to decrease nuisance on the Brabant Route when Germany is building the Third Track between Emmerich and Oberhausen, which will form the extension of the Dutch Betuweroute. During that period, the Brabant route will be the diversion route for rail freight transport. The money is deducted from the subsidies intended for freight traffic in the Netherlands.

The investment was announced by State Secretary Vivianne Heijnen of Infrastructure and Water Management and will be injected in ProRail’s Less Nuisance package, which covers mostly the Brabant route. “The package is intended to limit the increasing nuisance caused by diverted freight trains through the southern and eastern Netherlands,” she writes in a letter to the House of Representatives.

25 to 70 extra trains per day

Residents living near the Brabant route will be faced with considerably more nuisance between 2024 and 2026, when the works on the Third Track will be carried out. According to ProRail, 25 to 30 extra freight trains per day will run on the Brabant route during that period. This is when working on a single track. If double-track work is carried out, the border crossing of the Betuweroute at Emmerich cannot be used at all and 65 to 70 extra freight trains per day will run on the Brabantroute.

As soon as the third track in Germany is taken into use, the capacity of the Betuweroute will increase from 113 freight trains per day (now) to 190 freight trains per day in 2030. 33,500 trains per year will then run to the hinterland via the Betuweroute.

“The government will spend ten million euros on improving the track of the Brabant route,” writes Heijnen in her letter. “This should significantly reduce the nuisance for local residents. People living around the railway have been suffering from noise and vibrations for years. Measures consist, for example, of an alternative type of level crossing and of ‘under sleeper pads’, rubber mats under the sleepers of the track. Part of the measures can be taken before the start of the diversions in 2024, another part will be carried out from 2026.”

At the expense of freight support

Although the concerns of residents will have been met with the new measure, it comes at the expense of the support package for freight. Rail freight in the Netherlands enjoyed a subsidy scheme, intended to bring the track access charges carriers pay in line with those paid in Germany. This subsidy scheme will be ended by the end of 2023.

“By setting the subsidy ceiling for 2023 in the temporary subsidy scheme ‘stimulating freight transport by rail’ to zero, I can free up approximately twelve million euros for other uses,” Heijnen explains in the letter. “The purpose of the said regulation was to bring the rate for running trains, the so-called train path rate, in line with Germany. Because this goal has been achieved, the subsidy scheme will end in early 2023, one year ahead of schedule.’

“Limiting the negative effects for local residents and the economic importance of rail freight transport are both very important. It is a dilemma to choose. I will present the choices I want to make to this end to you in the Spring Memorandum,” concludes Heijnen.

‘Extremely sad’

Entrepreneurial organisation RailGood regrets, to put it mildly, that this is now at the expense of the subsidy scheme for freight transport by rail. “We have always made a case for the timely implementation of the Less Nuisance package,” says RailGood director Hans-Willem Vroon.

“It is of course good for local residents along the Brabant and Bentheim route that money has now been made available to reduce the increase in nuisance caused by diverted traffic in the coming years. For rail freight transport, on the other hand, it is extremely sad that the State Secretary is financing the ten million by ending the temporary subsidy scheme for stimulating rail freight transport a year earlier.

Much-needed support

“A budget of twelve million euros was still available for this subsidy scheme in the budget of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management for 2023. “More than 83 percent of this budget is now being used for the less nuisance package,” Vroon continues.

“This budget for stimulating rail freight transport is very much needed to compensate rail freight transport for the excessive increases in infrastructure levies for the use of the stabling and shunting tracks that ProRail implemented on 1 January 2023. The levies for most freight tracks will increase by 250 per cent to 470 perc ent in 2023 compared to 2022, which will seriously weaken the competitive position of rail freight transport.” Vroon therefore does not understand the decision of the State Secretary at all.

Author: Jeroen Baldwin

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