Rail freight transport

Some 80% of rail freight in the Netherlands comes from or is destined for other countries. The Dutch government therefore cooperates with other European governments and the European Commission to create efficient international rail freight links.

Rail freight routes

In the Netherlands freight trains run on fixed routes as much as possible. One important route is the Betuwe Route - a fast, rail freight only, direct link between the port of Rotterdam and Zevenaar at the German border. Many international freight trains use this line. In order to connect the Betuwe Route better with the German rail network an additional track will be built along the line between Zevenaar and Oberhausen (Germany).

Measures to increase rail freight volumes

The national government strives for more freight transport by rail, as rail transport is less polluting than road haulage. A package of measures was created after discussions at the national Rail Freight Table. At this table, railway undertakings, shippers, terminals, operators, the national railway network manager ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management sit together to monitor improvements in rail freight’s competitive position.

Particularly, in order to make rail freight more attractive for shippers, the ministry created a temporary subsidy scheme to lower track access charges. In return, railway undertakings must seek better cooperation and less nuisance along the tracks. Measures relate, for example, to:

  • A better exchange of data among partners in logistic chains on cargo and train arrivals.
  • Contribution to pilot projects, particularly in seeking measures to reduce the nuisance from train vibrations along the tracks.
  • Investments in modern equipment.

Rail freight corridors in Europe

There are a number of main routes (or ‘rail freight corridors’) for freight trains throughout Europe, which match with the multimodal corridors established in the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T). The most important ones for the Netherlands are:

  • Rhine Alpine, running from Amsterdam/Rotterdam to Genoa
  • North Sea Mediterranean, running from Amsterdam/Rotterdam to Lyon and Marseille
  • North Sea Baltic, running from Amsterdam/Rotterdam to Poland/Czech Republic/Lithuania and, from 2020 onwards, Latvia and Estonia

The EU member states want freight to be transported to its destination by rail quickly, efficiently and without delay. In the Declaration of Rotterdam (TEN-T-days June 2016) European countries have expressed their endeavour for achieving this. Also, sector organisations have expressed their commitment with the Sector Declaration (TEN-T days June 2016).

European agreements on rail freight transport

European rules apply to the transport of freight by rail in the European Union (EU), so companies do not have to comply with different rules in each country.

Once it is manufactured, a locomotive is given a single thorough test by the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) to see whether it meets the requirements applying in all countries of the EU.

The EU is also working on mutual recognition of train driver training and certification. Trains can continue their journey more quickly if they do not have to change drivers at the border.

European rail safety

A single European digital system for a safer traffic management is being introduced in Europe as a replacement for current, technically outdated, national systems: the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). This system will make it possible for trains to pass national borders and prevents trains to neglect a red light.