Revival of Rail Freight Transport in the Netherlands?
J Francke, KIM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis, NL
In this paper the results will be presented of a study into the market demand for rail freight transport in the Netherlands in the past and coming decades.
In the late 1980-ties the former Dutch Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water management, mrs Neelie Smit-Kroes, expressed her fear that the Netherlands would suffer from ?Jutlandisering? due to the peripheral location in Europe. The European economic integration of 1992 was still ahead and in several doom scenarios the Netherlands Ltd. would not be able to keep up with the other European countries in the global competition. In two long-term planning documents for Spatial Policy (4e Nota Ruimtelijke Ordening) and Transport Policy (Structuurschema Verkeer en Vervoer II) a startegic plan was set out to improve international competitiveness of the Netherlands. As a central theme the ?Gateway to Europe? was adopted in which the Mainports of Schiphol and Rotterdam would have a dominant role. Large-scale infrastructure investments in the hinterland connections of these ports and in the Mainports themselves were planned using a large portion of the available public investments funds in the next decades.
Now in 2007, nearly 20 years later, both the dedicated freight rail infrastructure from the port of Rotterdam to the German border (Betuweroute) and the dedicated high-speed line (HSL) from Schiphol to the Belgian border are finished. According to the latest Lisbon Review Report 2006 on competitiveness the Netherlands rank fairly good (4th out of the 25 EU member states) ahead of Germany and France and also better than the USA and East Asia. On top of this competitiveness ranking however stands Denmark with Jutland as one of the examples of investing heavily in education with a focus on technology and innovation.
Despite the possible suggestion in this last sentence of the introduction it is by no means the intention to dedicate this paper to the efficiency of public investments in infrastructure compared to other domains.
In this paper the results will be presented of a study into the market demand for rail freight transport in the Netherlands in the past and coming decades. What has happened during the building of the Betuweroute? After closing the Dutch coal mines in the south of the Netherlands at the end of the sixties the volume of national rail freight transport declined very rapidly. Although the total international freight transport market showed enormous growth figures in the seventies and the eighties, rail freight could only capture a small part of this growth. Total volume rail freight volume on Dutch territory fell down reaching rock bottom in 1993.
From then on the rail freight volumes in the Netherlands have more than doubled. Where did this growth come from? Can it be explained by the closing of the German coalmines and the enormous growth in container shipping from China or was the market liberalisation of rail freight the main driver of this growth? What can be learned from these past developments on the future of freight rail in the Netherlands in particular and Europe in general?
Association for European Transport