STUDIES by Railforum Nederland suggest that it may be possible to boost capacity on the Dutch rail network by 30 to 40% over the next five years with relatively minor modifications to signalling and track layouts.

NS is currently struggling to handle its growing traffic, with many passenger trains cancelled due to shortage of crews and rolling stock. Transport Minister Tineke Netelenbos fined NS Reizigers 26m guilders at the end of May, after punctuality fell to 77% of trains arriving within 3min against a target of 88%.

The Railforum proposals, drawn up in association with NS Reizigers, Railned, Verkeersleiding, Holland Rail Consult and Railion Benelux, envisage improvements to key corridors linking Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag to Eindhoven, Arnhem and Zwolle. Work would include moving signals to shorten block lengths, adding overtaking loops and strengthening power supplies, at a cost of 600m to 750m guilders per corridor.

More significantly, train operations would be ’homogenised’ to reduce the conflict between fast and slow services. Inter-city trains would each serve one or two more intermediate stations, allowing the elimination of stopping trains. Heavy freights would be split into shorter sections which run faster, freeing up further paths. Operating costs are predicted to increase by 10% for passenger traffic and fall by 5% for freight.