ProRail fears capacity problems if railways aren't renovated
The Dutch railways will need substantial renovations in the coming years, otherwise it won't be able to handle the expected 40 percent passenger growth after 2030, ProRail warns. If nothing is done, the rail manager expects significant capacity problems around Schiphol and Amsterdam, NU.nl reports.
"We will still go a long way until 2030, because we can still grow a little bit on busy routes", Klaas Hofstra, head of design at ProRail, said to the newspaper. "At the moment there are six intercity trains per hour between Amsterdam and Utrecht, and that frequency can be increased to eight times per hour, but we see that we will hit a border around 2030."
Zaandam, Schiphol, and Bijlmer ArenA will be potential bottlenecks", Hofstra said. "The forecast is that there will be 20 trains per hour there by 2030." Hengelo station will also pose a problem in the future, he expects. "Hengelo has only one platform. That is already full. The Twente region has ambitions. We see those ambitions, but there is now no solution without breaking down half the city."
Currently the main limit to capacity on the Dutch rails is the automatic train influencing system ATB, the security system on the rails. The ATB's maximum limit is one train every three minutes, or 20 trains per hour. The system was implemented on the Dutch rails at an accelerated pase after a disastrous rain accident at Harmelen in 1962. At that time the ATB was already a few dozen years old, which means that the Dutch rails currently run on a security system that is over 80 years old, according to the newspaper. "It is like living in a house from the thirties that is well maintained", TU Delft lecturer Wijnand Veeneman explained to NU.nl. "It is a great place to live, but there are a number of things that can be improved."
A new security system, the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), has already been implemented on certain routes in the Netherlands. This system works in a more modern way and can run trains closer together, increasing the capacity of the track. The intention is to install the system on more routes in the coming years. "But the budget is insufficient to install it throughout the Netherlands", ProRail's security expert Henri van Houten said to the newspaper.
ProRail is therefore calling on the government to invest more money into renewing the railway. The government already released 2 billion euros to install ERTMS in more places in the coming years, but in 2017 the European Court of Auditors calculated that almost 5 billion euros will be needed to install the system throughout the Netherlands.