Not a word about rail freight in Dutch coalition agreement

Image: ANP. Koen van Weel

It was a long and complex process, which many expected to fail at one point or another. After half a year, the Dutch coalition negotiations have ended with an agreement between four right-wing parties. The Dutch rail freight sector will likely look at the agreement with a sense of disappointment, because the agreement makes not a single mention of rail freight.

The parties presented a 26-page document, which dedicates one page to transport and infrastructure. However, the Dutch rail freight sector will likely not be satisfied with this first look at future policy. The agreement makes not a single mention of rail freight.

The transport section of the agreement highlights the importance of connectivity of the regions. In continuity with earlier government policy, the focus is mostly on public transport. Buses, trains and highways need to maintain and improve connections between regions and reduce congestion.

Two new rail lines: good for rail freight?

The plans include the construction of the so-called ‘Lely Line’ and ‘Lower Saxony Line’. These are aimed at improving connectivity with the country’s northern periphery. While the primary motivation for the lines is improving public transport, freight trains could also use the lines. However, these are not the routes that freight trains will most often travel along.

The two lines could bring some benefits to the rail freight sector, but they will not be built with freight in mind and remain mostly an unintended positive side effect. “If the Lely Line is properly connected with the ports and industry of Groningen and the line to Bremen, it could certainly be interesting to rail freight”, Hans-Willem Vroon, director of rail freight organisation RailGood says. “However, the main European good flows are not transported there. It’s not comparable to the main routes in the south and the east between the seaports and the European hinterland.”

Lobbying in vain

The Dutch rail freight sector has lobbied with the current government and negotiating parties for better policy. Organisation RailGood convinced parliament to pass a bill forcing the infrastructure ministry to come up with a plan for rail freight. The sector also sent letters to government officials, pleading for changes.

“Letters from the rail freight sector were sent to the negotiating parties”, Vroon says. “We will see what kind of policy we will get and if there is going to be a budget.” A sense of pessimism is noticeable in his words. “Until now, the new parliament has not shown an interest in rail freight and greening of transport. It is difficult to get political attention. They are not yet open to it. It is what it is. You can’t have it all.”

On the other hand, the RailGood director says, there is a possibility that there will be “something positive” for rail freight at a later stage. “It is positive that the outline agreement does focus on a major boost in infrastructure and accessibility. It also clearly states that action is needed to maintain and further improve accessibility throughout the Netherlands, also in the long term. The major maintenance task to ensure the basic quality of the infrastructure is in order is recognised. However, what will the budget be spent on? The highest priority is getting the Rotterdam Port Railway in order.”

“A comforting thought: it cannot get worse than under the previous government”, he adds.

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Author: Dennis van der Laan

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Not a word about rail freight in Dutch coalition agreement | RailFreight.com

Not a word about rail freight in Dutch coalition agreement

Image: ANP. Koen van Weel

It was a long and complex process, which many expected to fail at one point or another. After half a year, the Dutch coalition negotiations have ended with an agreement between four right-wing parties. The Dutch rail freight sector will likely look at the agreement with a sense of disappointment, because the agreement makes not a single mention of rail freight.

The parties presented a 26-page document, which dedicates one page to transport and infrastructure. However, the Dutch rail freight sector will likely not be satisfied with this first look at future policy. The agreement makes not a single mention of rail freight.

The transport section of the agreement highlights the importance of connectivity of the regions. In continuity with earlier government policy, the focus is mostly on public transport. Buses, trains and highways need to maintain and improve connections between regions and reduce congestion.

Two new rail lines: good for rail freight?

The plans include the construction of the so-called ‘Lely Line’ and ‘Lower Saxony Line’. These are aimed at improving connectivity with the country’s northern periphery. While the primary motivation for the lines is improving public transport, freight trains could also use the lines. However, these are not the routes that freight trains will most often travel along.

The two lines could bring some benefits to the rail freight sector, but they will not be built with freight in mind and remain mostly an unintended positive side effect. “If the Lely Line is properly connected with the ports and industry of Groningen and the line to Bremen, it could certainly be interesting to rail freight”, Hans-Willem Vroon, director of rail freight organisation RailGood says. “However, the main European good flows are not transported there. It’s not comparable to the main routes in the south and the east between the seaports and the European hinterland.”

Lobbying in vain

The Dutch rail freight sector has lobbied with the current government and negotiating parties for better policy. Organisation RailGood convinced parliament to pass a bill forcing the infrastructure ministry to come up with a plan for rail freight. The sector also sent letters to government officials, pleading for changes.

“Letters from the rail freight sector were sent to the negotiating parties”, Vroon says. “We will see what kind of policy we will get and if there is going to be a budget.” A sense of pessimism is noticeable in his words. “Until now, the new parliament has not shown an interest in rail freight and greening of transport. It is difficult to get political attention. They are not yet open to it. It is what it is. You can’t have it all.”

On the other hand, the RailGood director says, there is a possibility that there will be “something positive” for rail freight at a later stage. “It is positive that the outline agreement does focus on a major boost in infrastructure and accessibility. It also clearly states that action is needed to maintain and further improve accessibility throughout the Netherlands, also in the long term. The major maintenance task to ensure the basic quality of the infrastructure is in order is recognised. However, what will the budget be spent on? The highest priority is getting the Rotterdam Port Railway in order.”

“A comforting thought: it cannot get worse than under the previous government”, he adds.

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Author: Dennis van der Laan

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