Creating a ‘Green Wave’ on the Dutch railways
12 February 2014 • Author(s): Hugo Thomassen, Director of Transport & Timetables, ProRail
Forty different users and 3.3 million train movements. Every year, creating a master plan for capacity allocation on the busiest rail network in Europe poses a formidable mathematical challenge for the Dutch rail infrastructure management company ProRail. How does ProRail address this operational challenge in a way that is compatible with its ambitions for the future: record levels of safety, capacity growth, a well-maintained rail network and robust connections with the rest of Europe? For European Railway Review, Hugo Thomassen, ProRail’s Director of Transport and Timetables, explains the Dutch approach to these matters.
To understand the challenges we face in the Dutch railway sector, it may be instructive to start with a brief overview of the unique environment we operate in. The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in the European Union, with 16.8 million inhabitants. Mobility is very high in our flat country, partly thanks to the high rail density: our network consists of 7,033km of track, reaching all corners of the country. It contains 2,731 level crossings (1,614 of which are protected by automatic barriers), 7,195 points and 11,683 signals. Within the network, there are also 725 railway viaducts, 455 railway bridges, 56 moving bridges, 17 tunnels and 404 railway stations.