NETHERLANDS: On July 5 the European Rail Freight Association called for the Dutch government, the European Parliament and the European Commission to halt construction of the Betuwe Route in the Netherlands 'before it is too late and before €10bn of national and European public money is wasted with an effect that neither the Dutch government nor the EU want.'

ERFA is concerned that the 160 km Betuwe Route linking Rotterdam Maasvlakte and the German border will be a 'technical island' for the foreseeable future as it will be fitted with ETCS Level 2 train control and electrified at 25 kV 50Hz.

This would restrict the line to specially-designed and 'extremely expensive multi-system locomotives', and ERFA suggests that 'only the German former monopolist Railion has the structure to afford and run such shuttle locomotive services'.

The association 'cannot believe that the error committed with the Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden, which is practically not used for rail freight transport', will be repeated.

Earlier this year the Dutch Institute for Fire Safety & Disaster concluded that the Betuwe Route could not be used by trains carrying hazardous cargoes - even though this was one of the original intentions of the planners as the alignment deliberately avoids built-up areas (RG 4.01 p247). It noted that fire brigades attempting to deal with a spillage or an accident would have inadequate access at 222 locations because of high noise barriers or wide ditches.