Tractor drivers ignore Den Haag warnings; Heavy evening rush hour expected

Tractors on Dutch roadways
Tractors jammed up the roadways several times and in various locations on Oct. 16, 2019Photo: Rijkswaterstaat

Farmers protesting in the Utrecht region who then drove their tractors on the A12 motorway rejected orders from the police to exit the A12 and park their vehicles at the Cars Jeans Stadium in Den Haag. Instead, many stormed into town, attempting to either create a disturbance in the city center, force their way near parliament, or to other gathering sites in the city.

"The situation was so threatening that the safety of the employees on site could no longer be guaranteed," a Den Haag police spokesperson said. "That is why it was decided to remove the vehicles and let the tractors through."

At the Binnenhof, the parliament buildings complex in the city, members of the public were told they would not be allowed to enter. Police said this was "because of the bustle in the city center." People were still allowed to leave the complex.

Dutch infrastructure agency Rijkswaterstaat repeatedly criticized the protestors throughout the day for their unsafe behavior on the roadways. In some cases, tractors would come to a complete stop on the motorway, or block traffic at an entrance ramp so only other tractors could pass, or drive in emergency lanes 

Hundreds of tractors also descended on Leeuwarden, Friesland on Wednesday evening, according to AD. The five hundred farmers attended the political debate over nitrogen emissions without incident, police said.

A difficult evening rush hour was expected Wednesday night, said travel association ANVB and Rijkswaterstaat, especially once tractors leave the Hague. A similar issue happened in Friesland once the provincial government meeting ended and the tractors departed Leeuwarden.

In Den Haag, the tractors were preventing tram rails from being used, creating some public transit issues. In the early afternoon there were problems on the A12 from Utrecht towards Den Haag, on the A13 from Rotterdam towards Den Haag, and on the A20 from Rotterdam towards Hoek van Holland.

Traffic on the A4 from Amsterdam towards Den Haag was jammed up by 4:15 p.m. Once the tractors depart Den Haag, stretches of the A1, A2, A15, A27, A28 and A44 are likely to be slow-moving.

The farmers are largely protesting against sustainability policies at the national, regional, and local level, based primarily on data linking the Dutch agricultural sector to many of the nitrogen emissions problems plaguing the country. Some accuse the data from public health agency RIVM and several universities of being fraudulent.

The RIVM said the data involved is accurate, and their prediction models are among the most advanced.