Speech by the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, Stientje van Veldhoven, at the opening of the RailTech Europe workshop on Energy Saving in Rail, Jaarbeurs Exhibition and Convention Centre, Utrecht, 27 March 2019

'Rail travel is the cleanest way to transport passengers and goods. One of my key guiding principles is to make rail travel as attractive as possible.' Said State Secretary Van Veldhoven on 27 March at a seminar on energy efficient rail transport at the international Railtech fair.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to be here today. It’s great to see so many people from so many countries taking part in a workshop with enormous relevance to society.

I see energy saving in rail as one means of making our entire transport system energy-efficient, or even energy-neutral. And that’s essential if we’re going to achieve our climate goals.

The Netherlands has major ambitions in this area, as do many other EU member states. In that respect, we’re at the dawn of a new era.

The most striking illustration of this might surprise you.

You’ve probably heard that there’s a new James Bond film in the works.

The latest news is that Bond will be getting an electric car.

He’s sticking with his famous Aston Martin, but he’s trading in the petrol version for a fully electric Rapid E model.

James Bond’s going energy-neutral!

He still has a licence to kill, but no longer a licence to spill!

You won’t find a stronger signal that this new era has begun.

So how do I see this new era, and where does the Netherlands stand?

I believe we’ve entered an exciting and fascinating time. And there’s a great deal at stake. Which makes this kind of meeting all the more special.

The Netherlands has a high level of ambition when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions. We want to see a 49-per-cent reduction by 2030. And we’re working hard to conclude a definitive climate agreement for the Netherlands.

Mobility accounts for 30 per cent of our emissions, so it can also contribute greatly to our ambitions.

In the next 11 years we want to cut CO2 emissions in transport by six to seven megatonnes.

That will be a challenge, because mobility in the Netherlands will rise in the years ahead. We’re seeing growth in both passenger and goods transport.

In other words, we need to move more people and goods, while dramatically cutting emissions.
So how are we going to do it?

First, it’s important that everyone knows where they currently are and where they need to get to.

We need a compass.

That’s why we’ve sat down with all the relevant parties and drawn up a Vision on the Future of Public Transport for 2040. We presented it one month ago.

The vision lays out some serious ambitions on sustainability:

  • by 2030 the entire public transport sector will be emission-free.
  • and all public transport services will use 100 per cent green electricity.

One of my key guiding principles is to make rail travel as attractive as possible.

Convenient, fast and reliable. We want more people to opt for public transport.

Rail travel is the cleanest way to transport passengers and goods. Ideally with trains that run every 10 minutes or even more frequently.

The Netherlands already has one of the busiest rail networks in the world.

But there are still opportunities to make even better use of it.

ERTMS is a key way to do that. Which is why I’m working hard to introduce the system in the Dutch rail network. In a few months, I’ll be making a decision on how exactly this will be done. We’ll then move into the implementation phase and start the tendering process. And then it’s up to the industry to throw their hats in the ring. We need plenty of bids!

ERTMS also needs to be in place for automatic train operation (ATO) to succeed. We’re currently taking the first steps. A few months ago we ran a goods-transport trial, and last week the first passenger train ran on automatic pilot.

ERTMS and ATO are major projects. But small-scale innovations can help too. For example, the organisations responsible for managing and operating the Dutch network – ProRail and NS – are using sensors on two passenger trains to measure the condition of the rails, points and overhead lines. This helps reduce disruption, and the busier the network grows, the more vital this will become.

Another key principle is that we have to make our trains and rail network energy-efficient, or even energy-neutral.

The Netherlands is hard at work in this area. All our stations are being refitted with LED lighting, for example. We’re already generating over one million kilowatt-hours of energy with solar panels at stations. By 2020 that figure will be two million. And right now, in Delft, we’re building the first energy-neutral train station.
What’s more, wind energy already accounts for more than 18 billion passenger kilometres a year.

Energy efficiency involves not only new technology, but also behaviour.
By driving trains efficiently, train drivers can save five per cent of total energy consumption. Dutch trains consume around 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours a year in total – roughly the same as the entire city of Amsterdam. So five per cent is a lot of energy!

It’s fantastic that many energy-saving ideas are coming from rail workers themselves.
Dutch driver Freddy Velthuizen has devised a system called ‘universal energy-efficient driving’, for example. It involves accelerating quickly to 140 kilometres per hour, and then reducing the power. An ingenious idea that’s now being developed further.

Here’s another good example: chief conductors are now testing smartwatches that help them depart on time. Precisely 42 seconds before departure, an app on the watch gives them a signal to start the departure process. It gives them the space and control they need to work efficiently. And it saves energy because no lost time needs to be made up later.

As you may have noticed, I’m very enthusiastic about all these innovations.
My main message today is: we’re at the dawn of a new era. As one of the cleanest forms of transport, the rail system is growing ever-more important.

So we need your knowledge and expertise more than ever to facilitate an energy-neutral, intensively used, and attractive rail network. We need solar power. We need wind power. But, above all, we need your brain power.

When James Bond needs innovation and inspiration, he has Q.

We have you!

So I hope to hear plenty of ideas from you all!

Thank you.