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ProRail - Articles and news items

Making ProRail more sustainable

Issue 2 2017 / 19 March 2017 /

ProRail – the Dutch railway network operator – is passionate about sustainability. But a completely sustainable railway doesn’t just materialise overnight. Small incremental steps are being taken every day with significant progress being made in several key areas. In this article for European Railway Review, Karen te Boome, Manager of Environment and Sustainability at ProRail, highlights the strides that have been taken within the Netherlands’ rail network and its carriers toward its ultimate goal of carbon neutrality.

ProRail… on the right track!

Issue 3 2016 / 25 May 2016 /

ProRail is responsible for the Dutch rail network – the busiest in Europe. The organisation enables 1.1 million train journeys every day and 51 billion tonne-kilometres every year. Currently working on the biggest track renewal project in Dutch history, ProRail experienced an eventful 2015, as President and Chairman Pier Eringa reports…

20-year development of Arnhem Central Station complete

Rail industry news / 19 November 2015 /

A newly completed futuristic Arnhem Central Station has opened its doors following a 20-year redevelopment project at a cost of €37.5 million.

Creating a ‘Green Wave’ on the Dutch railways

Issue 1 2014 / 12 February 2014 /

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.

A new concept railway turnout that functions in harsh winter conditions

Rail industry news / 24 January 2014 /

Due to the high number of turnouts and turnout-heater problems seen every winter on the Dutch rail network…

Rail Freight Corridor 2 is launched

Rail industry news / 13 November 2013 /

This corridor is one of the main railway routes and one of the most promising rail corridor in Europe…

The infrastructure managers and capacity allocation bodies put Rail Freight Corridor 2 on the tracks

Rail industry news / 21 March 2013 /

Rail Freight Corridor 2: a European rail transport route…

Moving people and cargo from A to B

Issue 1 2013 / 20 February 2013 /

As the principal government official for railways, it is my responsibility to offer the millions of people who use the Dutch public transport system the best service possible. Fortunately I am not alone when it comes to doing the hard work. Together with the various Dutch rail companies and ProRail (our infrastructure provider) we’re working day and night to move people and cargo from A to B.

This is no small feat considering the com – plexity of our railway system and the length of our tracks; 7,000km. To give you some idea, that’s from Holland to Siberia, deep into the heart of Russia. For every kilometre the system counts one switch or crossing. Each day, 6,000 trains travel from one place to the next, carrying more than one million passengers and many tonnes of cargo.

Our rail system functions well. Still, such a complex and heavily burdened network is prone to disturbances. Sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfall and severe storms that disrupt the system in one place, can quickly cause havoc in a number of other places. It’s one of the drawbacks of such an intricate network; fall-out spreads rapidly.

We all expect a well-tuned railway on which reliable trains transport passengers comfortably and safely to their desired destinations on time. So, how do we do this?

First of all, our railway network should be better guarded to work in extreme weather conditions. Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) – the biggest Dutch railway company – adjusts train timetables when extreme weather is expected. Fewer trains mean fewer fall-outs when things do go wrong. As a result, more trains travel on time. Because commuters can check the adjusted timetables on their computer or mobile phone, this leads to less hassle and frustration.

Secondly, I want our national railway network to fit tightly within the other public transport networks such as trams, buses and the underground. People care about getting to their destination in a comfortable and timely fashion. They do not care about the mode of transport. This is why I want to focus on creating a national public transport network. Of course, provisions for cars (Park + Ride) and bicycles need to be optimal too. Especially since bikes are still our main mode of transport within cities.

Hanzelijn makes the Netherlands even smaller

Issue 1 2013 / 20 February 2013 /

“The Netherlands, here you are” were proud words of the 2012 Dutch Olympic gold medallist Ranomi Kromowidjojo. ProRail can also use the same words when speaking about the Hanzelijn – the newest railway track that the railway manager has built between Lelystad and Zwolle – we are proud of the result.

After the Betuweroute (the freight railway line between Rotterdam and the German border) and the high-speed rail link South (from Amsterdam to the south), the Hanzelijn is the third, and the last for the time being, new large track that was added to the Dutch railway network. Queen Beatrix opened the line on 6 December 2012. From 9 December 2012, the new railway line has been included in the new timetable of transporter NS. ProRail is manager and owner of the railway system in the Netherlands that now covers over 7,000km.

The new track is 50km-long and it was constructed for three main purposes; for better opening-up of the region; for better connection between the north of the country and the region of Amsterdam; and to meet the increasing numbers of railway travellers. Groningen is now 15 minutes closer to Schiphol. One might say: The Netherlands has become a little bit smaller than it used to be. The railway has partly been built on ‘new land’ at the bottom of the former Zuiderzee. Residents and municipalities along the track see opportunities for new regionaleconomic development.

By the book

The line aims to transport 32,000 travellers from 2013. Besides, the Hanzelijn contributes to meeting the increase of mobility on the railway.

Without this new track substantial capacity expansion would have been required on the track of the existing Veluwelijn (Amersfoort- Zwolle). Transport flows from the north can now be spread over two lines which makes the total system less vulnerable.

As far as we are concerned, the Hanzelijn is a railway by the book. Smooth as a billiard cloth, with no level crossings, equipped with ERTMS and suitable for trains to travel on at up to speeds of 200km/h on this section. We have built two beautiful new stations; a splendid vivid red design bridge over the IJssel River and a tunnel under the Dronten Lake nature reserve. We have built the entire line with 88 construction works within the set time and well within budget.

Project management

How did we manage this? When we say that we are proud of the Hanzelijn, we mean, perhaps, that we are particularly proud of the way in which we have constructed it. At the beginning of this millennium, we developed a lot of knowledge and skills in the area of project management when building the Betuweroute; we worked with Design and Construction (D&C) contracts for the first time. This was successful, as the Betuweroute is a great example of a successful infrastructural construction project from an international point of view.

We have continued this learning curve. Professionals involved in the construction of the Betuweroute have spread over various infrastructural projects in the Netherlands, including the Hanzelijn. I happen to be one of them myself. The art is in the transfer of knowledge and experience to new projects, enabling the society to optimally benefit from the experience gained.

This starts with setting up the project organisation. In fact, we divided the organisation, which included approximately 50 people, into two parts: A Project Management Department in the Head Office in Utrecht and an On-Site Construction Management Department in Kampen. In this way, project management was close to the management and exploitation departments that had to take over the railway after construction. This made the mutual alignment easier. In this way, construction management could focus better on the actual construction work. People who functioned on the construction work were not distracted by all kinds of social and political discussions that always happen during such a process. The one department was directed towards the building site, the other towards society. An effective model is established when one succeeds in making those two departments cooperate well.

Developing key standards for rail security at ProRail

Issue 1 2013 / 20 February 2013 /

ProRail, the Dutch Rail Infrastructure Manager has recently developed standards for rail security: risk based, all hazard and fit for an open system. What were the considerations to develop a dedicated set of standards, which methodology is used and what will be the way forward?

The government policy for rail security in the Netherlands is to integrate safety and security. This government policy was published in 2010 and is valid for the period until 20202. The security approach was developed in cooperation between the government and the railway sector. The policy focuses on common principles, a common methodology, clear responsibilities of the government and the railway sector and specific targets for the period until 2015. An evaluation in 2015 could lead to additional targets for both government and the railway sector.

A national policy was developed because there is no European or international legislation for railway security. Specific standards are not available. There was a need to clarify positions and expectations of the government and the railway sector. The legislation and standards for maritime and aviation security are not fit for use for railways because of major differences: an open (rail) versus closed system (maritime and aviation), essential differences in the processes and of course differences in hazards and threats, in type of incidents and in responsibilities. The policy supports the railways in focusing their approach for security. They do not prescribe what to do in terms of measures.

The approach on security was mainly focused on specific incidents that will cause disruptions within operations. Compared to other types of hazards, security does not score high in terms of probability and effects. Therefore the focus on security was limited. Hazards and threats were managed from a practical point of view. The approach is not based on a specific methodology. Managing security is purely seen as a major cost driver for the organisation. There is awareness of positive long-term effects in terms of reduction of dispunctuality, customer satisfaction for staff, passengers and shippers. In the short-term, the effects on investment might look substantial. If the implementation is spread over one or two decades the costs for an integrated security approach are relative.

The development of a national security policy started after the National Coordinator of Counterterrorism launched its National Alert System. This system is focused on the protection of the most risk full objects in vital sectors against terrorism. Vital objects in the Dutch Rail Infrastructure became part of this alert system3. The principle behind the system is simple. It concentrates on four levels of preparation: baseline and three threat levels: light, medium and high. For all of these levels it is expected that vital infrastructures should prepare appropriate measures. The measures in one of the three threat levels are related to the type of attacks that were expected. But how are these baselines defined? And, after being prepared for the three threat levels, the question had to be answered: is only a focus on low probability/high effects incidents (i.e. terrorism and sabotage) enough? What is really needed for the preparation of all kinds of security hazards and threats?

The first step was to define security: “All measures and features to protect the assets against identified security threats and incidents, caused by human behaviour and acting, that can possibly affect the state, nature or functionality of any object, process, policy, information or integrity of staff.” We do realise that this is quite a broad definition. In fact it is all about “human behaviour, conscious or unconscious, that can affect the rail system in any way”. This definition includes, for example, suicides and also intentional behaviour to cause damage.

The second step was to make the Board aware of the level of risk of the different security hazards. This was ensured by an integrated risk management process based on Enterprise Risk Management. All types of security incidents were plotted in a risk matrix and scored in green, yellow or red. Based on the principles behind the safety and security management system (SMS) red risks should have the attention of the Board, yellow risks should be solved by the business units and green risks can be part of the continuous improvement in the daily process. We realised that the management of security hazards differs from safety management. If the focus is only on one specific ‘red’ risk and not on the other security risks, inefficiency and ineffectiveness can be the result. An integrated approach focused on the implementation of lines of defence for all identified security incidents for the different types of assets promises to be more effective and efficient. We developed a matrix for all different types of assets within the responsibility of the Rail Infrastructure Manager to have an overview of these types of risks.

Adjusted rail profile makes Dutch rail virtually free from Head Checks

Issue 1 2012 / 6 February 2012 /

Since 2006, infra-manager ProRail has been keeping the Dutch rail free from Head Checks by grinding the rails in an Anti Head Check profile. Head Checks (HC) are rail defects that are created by wheel-rail contact. These can be serious safety threats. I obtained my doctorate in 2010 with the dissertation titled ‘Design of an Anti Head Check profile based on stress relief 1,2. I designed a rail profile that saves ProRail €50 million of maintenance costs for the rails per year. This rail profile made the volume of HC decrease by over 70% since late-2008. Head Checks are becoming extinct in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, approximately 70% of the total annual maintenance budget is spent on rails, including foundation, sleepers, ballast, constructions and switches3. Rails may seem to be simple elements, but they deserve ample attention. The wheel-rail contact is the force that brings the degeneration of both separate systems together. All failing mechanisms can eventually be brought down to this dynamic contact system. This also played a role in the serious and fatal UK rail accident in 2000 at Hatfield, where rails affected by HC broke down.

Shocked by this, infra-manager ProRail took a look at the situation in the Netherlands. Inspections proved that here HC was a serious problem as well: 10% of the curves (rails) appeared to have been affected. The safety, reliability and availability of the rails was in danger. The problem increased and expo – nentially grew each year. In the peak year 2004, ProRail spent €50 million on fighting HC.

14 trains per hour on a 2-track rail section? The Dutch prove that it ISpossible!

Issue 1 2011 / 15 February 2011 /

Imagine: six intercity trains, six regional trains and two freight trains per hour in the morning and evening peak hours. In September 2010, the Dutch rail industry carried out a unique test named ‘Each ten minutes a train (ETMET)’ on a mainly two-track route. In a special interview for European Railway Review, Erik Sigger (NS) and Peter van Waveren (ProRail), Project Management of ETMET, explain that although this is the dream of every train passenger, is it really possible?

The answer seems to be yes, provisionally, because with a structural introduction of this metro-like system, there are a lot more factors than just arranging extra trains and staff, as was discovered by Dutch Railways (NS), infrastructure manager ProRail and the united freight railway undertakings Royal Dutch Transport Federation (KNV).

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