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Port of Rotterdam sends pressing Betuwe letter to Berlin

Rotterdam port authority has appealed over the head of the Dutch government directly to German federal transport minister Andreas Scheuer, to provide a concrete outlook regarding the long overdue rail improvements needed on the German side to match up with the capacity of the Betuwe rail freight corridor

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Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority (HbR), opted to address directly the federal German government, “over the head” of the normal way to lobby on this vexed question, via the Dutch transport minister.


A copy of the letter went to Dutch transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, the deputy transport ministers of the two countries and to Hendrik Wüst, Transport Secretary of the State of Nordrein-Westfalen (NRW).

Allard Castelein (L) and NRW Transport Minister Hendrik Wüst
Allard Castelein (L) and NRW Transport Minister Hendrik Wüst

In the letter, Castelein urges Scheuer to “finally provide us with an implementation perspective and a realistic completion date for the third rail track between Emmerich and Oberhausen. Simply pointing out that planning procedures take a long time in Germany, cannot and should not satisfy us, 26 years after the obligation to improve the rail link was taken on.”


Castelein notes that since the financing was agreed between Germany’s federal government, NRW and Deutsche Bahn in 2013, hardly any progress has been made. “Despite the highest priority being given in the German national infrastructure scheme, we still await the conclusion of 11 out of the 12 building permits.

The route of the third track in Germany
The route of the third track in Germany

“No significant progress has been made for the Betuweroute for years. By late 2018 still nobody can give us an official indication of when the improvements will be made or a roadmap towards it.”


The routing, shown left, would relieve many at-grade crossings and thus speed traffic flow in this part of Germany. However, the new link is opposed by many residents and activists because of the disruption it would cause during construction and its eventual impact on the built environment.


The realisation of a dedicated rail freight corridor linking the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam with the German Ruhr Area was agreed upon in the bilateral Treaty of Warnemünde in 1992.

The Betuweroute cannot be fully utilised without rail improvements in Germany
The Betuweroute cannot be fully utilised without rail improvements in Germany

The Dutch part of this - and also the major stretch - is the 160-kilometre long, electrified double rail track between the Maasvlakte and the border with Germany near Emmerich. It was commissioned in 2007 at a cost of almost €4.9B.


To match its capacity, Germany is supposed to build a third – and, crucially, grade-separated - rail track next to the existing 73-kilometre two-line track, which has many at-grade road crossings, between Emmerich, on the border, and Oberhausen, an important rail junction on the north-west corner of the Ruhr Area, close to Duisburg, Europe’s biggest inland port and inland rail hub. This German Betuweroute extension has a €1.5B price tag.


“It is obvious, that this pinch point curtails the economic potential of the investments made on the Dutch side of the border,” Castelein added. “Only around 100 trains can use the track daily, whereas the potential is 160 trains per day.

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