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  • Writer's pictureFirst Port Global (FPG)

No German Betuwe matching track before 2026

The extension of the rail track in Germany, which is essential to meet the capacity of the dedicated Betuwe rail freight corridor in the Netherlands, will not be ready before 2026, the Dutch Deputy Transport Minister Stientje van Veldhoven has told Parliament

The Minister’s German counterparts have informed her that the time needed to securing the building permits is to blame. In January 2017, the revised target date for the already delayed "third track," was set at 2022, so the deadline has now slipped by four more years.

The grade-separated third track, next to the 73-kilometre two-line track between the Dutch border at Emmerich and Oberhausen, an important rail junction close to Duisburg, is still said to have the highest priority in Germany’s national infrastructure scheme, despite the ongoing delays.

The €1.5B German extension is essential to match the Dutch Betuweroute’s capacity of 160 trains per 24 hours. Whereas the Dutch commissioned this dedicated and electrified freight track in 2007, Germany has so far failed to deliver its commitments in the bilateral treaty signed in 1992. At present the line’s capacity for trains into Germany and the Rotterdam-Genoa corridor is limited to 50 train pairs per day.

The Dutch are still investing. The bascule Caland bridge bypass in Rotterdam should open in 2021
The Dutch are still investing. The bascule Caland bridge bypass in Rotterdam should open in 2021

The latest news is a blow to Rotterdam port authority. Last November, CEO Allard Castelein sent a pressing "open" letter directly to German federal transport minister Andreas Scheuer asking him for a concrete outlook regarding the long overdue rail improvements.

"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," he wrote. "Since the financing [for the third track] was agreed between Germany’s federal government, NRW and Deutsche Bahn in 2013, hardly any progress has been made."

Since the Betuweroute was opened in 2007, the Dutch have continued investing in further improvements, including a rail bypass to avoid the Caland Canal bascule bridge in Rotterdam, in 2016. Construction work on the bypass has just started and the project should be completed in 2021.

The Betuweroute starts at the Maasvlakte and should be pumping container and bulk trains into the Rhine corridor.

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