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  BETUWEROUTE : A NEW FREIGHT RAILWAY FROM ROTTERDAM HARBOUR TO THE GERMAN BORDER
photo: Hugo van Vondelen - 2010 betuweroute
Plan and purposes

 

The plans to develop the port of Rotterdam in order to consolidate its primacy in Europe as a gateway to the continental market, from Italy to the Eastern Countries, is accompanied by the willingness of Dutch Government to transfer most of the new traffic volumes from vessels direct to trains, so as not to compromise the environmental balance in the region.

However, since the existing railways are also used by passenger traffic, which in the Netherlands is very frequent, the requested capacity for additional traffic of freight trains should not be available.

In 1998 works began to build a new railway, completed in 2007, dedicated to freight traffic only, connecting the farthest area of the port of Rotterdam (Maasvlakte) to Kijfhoek marshalling yard, short south of Rotterdam, and hence to the German border near Zevenaar/Emmerich by following the path of the A15 motorway.

  carta olanda

 

The new route can be used also to serve the port of Amsterdam, through a connection with the traditional rail network that engages in new line at Geldermalsen, according to the schema as outlined in the map of the Netherlands aside.

The line runs, in its middle section, through a region historically known as Betuwe (Batavia) and this is why it is called the Betuwelijn or Betuweroute. The goal to reduce the impact of the new structure on the landscape has prompted to run the Rails underground for almost 20 km upon a total length of 160 km, both by the crossing of major streams and near a couple of major population centers, and brought the whole cost of the building to almost 5 billion euros.

Overall map of the line from Maasvlakte to Zevenaar

click on the map for large format vision (7000 px)

totale plan
Detail maps per sections:
A
B
C
Section A: from the port of Rotterdam to the exit from the yard of Kijfhoek sezione A
Section B: from Kijfhoek exit to the Amsterdam-Rijnkanal sezione B
Section C: from Amsterdam-Rijnkanal to the German border sezione C

Technical data


 

 

 

 

The new route measures a whole lenght of 160 km, of which 48 in Port area and 112 in the section along the A15 motorway.

These two parts are powered by 25 kV alternating current 50 Hz, while the stretch corresponding to Kijfhoek yard is 1.5 kV DC operated as the rest of the common network. As safety equipment the European ERTMS system was choosen, implemented on the section along the A15 as ETCS Level 2, and in the port area as ETCS Level 1 (which also integrates the traditional signalling).

The gabarit code is C80/P400 profile and the max axle-load is in D4 category.

In addition to the already mentioned 20 km underground sections, divided into 5 tunnels, there are 12 km of viaducts, and 130 bridges for streets and for the passage of wildlife. On long stretches there are on the side of the rails sound-absorbing fences of medium height. All installations bearing the feeding electrical headwire are designed to characterize the new railway and to improve the landscape impact of it.

   

Operation management

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The Betuwelijn is not part of the common Dutch rail network operated by Prorail, but has been entrusted to a specially created company, called Keyrail.
Although in original plans this would be a private company, in the end it was necessary to rely on subjects of public property, and so the shares are: 50% ProRail, 35% port of Rotterdam, 15% port of Amsterdam.

Keyrail has about 70 employees, mostly intended for traffic control in operation room located in a building at Kijfhoek

control center

Kijfhoek marshalling yard, which is accessible from both the Betuwlijn and the conventional lines, is currently jointly managed by ProRail and Keyrail. Its function is mainly the composition of non-intermodal trains of the Single Wagon Load traffic, and as such it is the only plant still operating in the Netherlands. The operation is entrusted exclusively to DB Schenker NL, which long ago took over the goods branch of ex-State owned Dutch railways NS. One area is devoted to the switching of engines for intermodal trains which arrive not heded by suitable locomotives for transit on the port line.

The rate for train paths, in September 2012, is 2.51 Euros/km, excluded the supply of electrical power for the traction, which is purchased by railway undertakings directly from the energy market.

Thanks to the fact that the line has an homogeneous type of traffic, railway undertakings are required to contract a punctuality rate extremely high with a maximum tolerance of 3 minutes.

 

Types of traffic

 

All types of freight traffic in import and export run the Betuwe line, but predominant are block-trains of ore (ferrous and coal) for power generation plants and steelworks in most parts of Europe, and intermodal trains, mainly for maritime containers.
For reasons related to the position of the German border crossing, located more at north than the old route via Breda-Venlo, the Betuwe line is less used by trains with destinations in Switzerland and Italy, and are principally relations with the countries of Eastern Europe (from Poland to Hungary) that take advantage of this new railway.
Entry into Germany more South makes it possible to reduce, for trains bound for southern Countries, the length of the route section interesting DB network and therefore the global cost of the international train path.
Some operators prefer anyway the greater regularity and reliability of services offered by a dedicated line as the Betuwe line.

Traffic volumes and modal shift from road

 

To capture traffic on the Betuwe line, Keyrail followed a very interesting company policy, based on the reliability of new infrastructure and highlighting that by this rail companies can improve the productivity of operating means. Keyrail so do not merely sell tracks on its line, but proposed itself as a Director of the railway-based supply chain. In this sense, Keyrail operated in close collaboration with the market counterparts, urging all parties to focus on the quality of their services to get together a greater efficiency and therefore to be more competitive to the road.

At the end of 2011 the punctuality rate (with tolerance of 3 minutes max) had achieved 91.3%, an increase of 26 points compared to 65% of the first months of opening in 2007.

This has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of trains using the line, raised from about 100 in the first quarter of 2008 to more than 6,000 in the second quarter of 2011, slightly reduced to about 5,800 in Q2 2012 due to the second economic crisis. Some influence on this result, regarding the early periods of exercise, was also due to the gradual availability of locomotives equipped with ERTMS as well as systems for circulation under different supply voltages, which at the beginning were not yet ready.

  number of trains
  Very interesting is the following diagram that shows how the traffic directed from Rotterdam to Germany is subdivided according to the different routes available: today the 74% of volumes are using the Betuwe line, 23% the traditional line further South via Venlo, while others routes have only residual shares.
  traffic share map
  The comparison among the three diagrams below shows how in three years, from 2009 to 2011, the strong growth of traffic share of the Betuwe line is due to a change from a situation of mere transfer of traffic from conventional lines in the Betuwe line (2009-2010) to the capture of new traffic shares diverted from the road (2010-2011). The line now begins to produce the effects as wanted at the time it was planned.
  traffic share diagram
 

The Keyrail plan is to bring the number of trains from the current roughly 500 a week to 900 per week (over 10,000 per quarter) within the next 5 years.

Photo gallery

 

Many photographs of trains at various points of the Betuwe line can be found in the dedicated chapter "Olanda" in photo-galleries of intermodale24-rail.net >>>> vedi.

Hereafter I propose some details of the line structures:

So the Betuwelijn enters in the area of Port of Rotterdam, on viaduct.
Photo F.Quattroccolo
08.06.2011
betuwelijn Port Rotterdam
The starting point of the Betuwe line-A15, from Kijfhoek, with a tunnel that passes under a branch of the Maas.
Photo F. Quattroccolo
06.09.2012
staart Betuwelijn in Kijfoek
A train of ore with a couple of 189 DB enters the Betuwe line from Kijfhoek.
Photo F. Quattroccolo
08.06.2011
train entering betuwelijn in kijfhoek
Near Gorinchem, side by side run the motorway A15, a local railway line by ProRail and the Betuwe line.
Photo F. Quattroccolo
05.09.2012
etuwelijn A15
 

 

Most of the informations above come from documents collected in the Media Tour Transport and Logistics organized by the Agentschap NL of Dutch Ministry for Economy, including a visit to Keyrail headquarter in Kijfhoek, I took part in September 2012.

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