NETHERLANDS: The Dutch main line network is ‘almost full’, ProRail warned on August 20. The national infrastructure manager issued the stark assessment in its annual update on proposed path allocations for 2019.

ProRail said it was ‘running up against the limits’ of its 7 300 track-km network, pointing out that traffic had grown from 129 million train-km in 2004 to 165 million train-km planned for 2019. It added that there would be ‘little point’ in trying to add more infrastructure as there was ‘no room for that’ across the country.

Particular challenges include a marked increase in freight traffic, with 8% more trains expected to run next year compared to this. A major constraint is the amount of stabling and depot space around the network; ProRail says that this shortage at ‘several key locations’ must be ‘quickly addressed’. It expects to begin offering stabling and shunting ‘as a service’ in future in an attempt to optimise use of the facilities available.

Some capacity relief will be provided by the launch of more IC Direct inter-city passenger services over the HSL-Zuid high speed line, which ProRail says will release paths on the conventional network for local trains. Infrastructure work between Amsterdam and Utrecht will also allow ICE services into Germany to be accelerated by 3 min, releasing some capacity.

Looking ahead, the infrastructure manager believes that more capacity can be squeezed out through the deployment of intelligent timetabling tools, particularly aimed at freight trains which often require short notice paths or changes to booked workings. From 2020, the national working timetable will be specified to the nearest 6 sec rather than whole minutes, which ProRail believes will ‘help it better deliver the public timetable’.