Mainport Rotterdam, rail port with growth potential

26 Augustus 2018

Transport, ports and international trade are important pillars of the Dutch economy. In the coming decade, transport will increase considerably as a result of growing market demand. To facilitate this growth and to prevent that the Dutch and European road network is coming to a standstill, a strong and competitive rail freight product is urgently needed. Rail freight transport is environmentally friendly with a substantially lower CO2 emission per tonne kilometer than road transport and inland shipping. Rail transport is a relevant key to better control global warming caused by mobility and transport. Transporting freight by rail is also transport efficient and safe.

More than 250 hinterland train connections run from/to the port of Rotterdam - with its major world class industrial and logistics complex - for transport of containers, trailers, swap bodies, (petro)chemical products, bulk and general cargo. The ambition is that rail has to double next decade its share in the modal split in the hinterland transport, now at 10% in Rotterdam. Transit times from/to the Rhine Ruhr area are 3 - 4 hours and from/to other European destinations within 24 hours. Several rail terminals are located on the multimodal nodes in the port area. The deep sea terminals on Maasvlakte I and II and the RoRo terminals all have their own rail transshipment facilities. The Rotterdam Harbour Line and the Betuweroute from/to Germany are artery railway lines in the important Rhine - Alpine Rail Freight Corridor and dedicated freight railways.

The Rotterdam Harbour Line is also the start and end point of the fast growing North Sea - Baltic Corridor and the North Sea - Black Sea Corridor. And may be in future also the still asleep (from a Dutch point of view) North Sea - Mediterranean Corridor. In 2017 the Harbour Line handled 30,000 freight trains. The Betuweroute (A15 section) handled almost 18,000 freight trains to/from port of Rotterdam. The Brabantroute (towards Venlo/West-Germany/Chemelot/Antwerp; 12,500* freight trains on the Venlo border and 8,000* on the Antwerp border) and Bentheimroute (towards North-Germany/Sweden/Czech Republic/Poland/China; 6,000* freight trains) are the other important hinterland routes. Especially the Brabantroute is also critical as diversion route for the railway line Betuweroute-Oberhausen-Cologne. * including origins/destinations outside port of Rotterdam, such as North Sea Port NL-B, port Amsterdam-IJmond, port Moerdijk-Oosterhout and the rail terminals in Tilburg and Venlo.

The Rotterdam Harbour Line and the Betuweroute have a high transport capacity with with sufficient capacity for growth on the short, mid and long term. The entrepreneurs in the rail freight transport business are always driven to further increase the productivity of their trains and transport services. There is still sufficient capacity for more cargo and containers on many freight trains. Furthermore there are many opportunities to increase the transport capacity of the during at daytime reasonably intensively utilized network Dutch railway network with mixed passenger/freight traffic on the short and mid term (mid term is 2021-2025). In order to maximize these opportunities, the following feasible and financeable measures must be taken in the next years:

  • Targeted infrastructural and regulatory measures for facilitating 740+ meters freight trains.
  • Harmonized and lean railway capacity offer, capacity allocation and slot order management by the rail infra managers and Rail Freight Corridors that fits the freight market. With predefined freight train slots on the intensively used railway lines with mixed passenger/freight traffic and with flexibility. On the mid term with one ICT system for planning and order management of slots for freight trains, at least in the Netherlands and Germany.
  • In the Netherlands, Government must adjust and actualize the railway and transport of hazardous goods legislation & regulations from the point of view of integral capacity management (= physical railway capacity in the Netherlands, seamless connection with Rail Freight Corridor networks, DB Netze and Infrabel, noise, external safety/Basisnet of hazardous goods, capacity withdrawal for railway maintenance & projects respectively environmental permits for shunting yards and rail terminals). With a fair share for rail freight transport on the mixed passenger/freight railway network.
  • Improvements in the timely and seamless allocation of railway capacity withdrawals for maintenance work on the railways and projects in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
  • During the construction works for the third track between Emmerich and Oberhausen in Germany (ABS 46/2), the Dutch and German railway sector and Ministeries of Infrastructure must work well together to facilitate rail freight transport, that can temporarily no longer or less use the Emmerich border crossing (Betuweroute), well. As already done in 2016.
  • Improvement of the reliability and availability of the railway infrastructure and improvement of contingency management and communication, also across the national borders.
  • Efficiency improvements in the port areas and major inland logistical rail nodes through optimization of work processes at the exchange points between all involved chain partners and timely exchange of relevant information.
  • Removing bottlenecks and simplifying regulations for efficient and less time consuming railway and train operations.
  • Powerfully stimulating transport in off-peak hours by Government and the rail infra manager. Why not abolish the kilometer charge on the dedicated freight line Betuweroute? There is also no kilometer charge for inland shipping in the Rhine waters.
  • Close cooperation with Germany (and Switzerland) for innovations that enable higher utilization of the railways (digitization and automation).
  • And last but not least and continuing to do business in the rail freight transport business. Competition and fair market access are a guarantee for entrepreneurship, market and customer orientation and efficiency.

The Dutch railway sector, Port of Rotterdam, the branch organisation of shippers and Ministry of Infrastructure agreed in June 2018 to implement the masterplan rail freight transportation in the Netherlands with a broad package of financial, organizational and technical measures in order to make rail freight transport more competitive and to attract shippers more often to choose for rail freight transport. This masterplan and package of measures also concern rail freight transport throughout the Netherlands.