Explosive growth in train passengers expected for the coming years

Edition 28 June 2018, byJuan Álvarez Umbarila

The Dutch railway network is already one of the busiest in the world. Yet with a booming economy, a denser population and an everlasting urge for fast travel, it is about to become even busier in the next ten years. Until recently, passenger growth in the coming decade was estimated at about 30%, but according to Pier Eringa, CEO of ProRail, that number has grown to 45%. The railway network needs to be upgraded to meet the growing demand, and for that purpose a budget of € 20 billion is destined to be used until 2030.

In The Netherlands, ProRail is in charge of maintenance and enhancement of the national railway network infrastructure, rail capacity and traffic control. It is funded by government subsidies and by the fees paid by the train operators, the biggest of which is Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). But the investment ProRail is going to make in the next decade is not limited to renovating and upgrading the railway tracks alone. According to Eringa, in order to cope with the increasing demand, planning and investment will cover the growth of the railway system as a whole. This includes more space for an increasing number of trains, more parking places and larger stations. Also, a more advanced security system will allow more trains per track in the future, running faster and closer to each other. And, as passenger transport by train grows, so it does freight rail transport, taking cargo to and from ports and around the country. Railway infrastructure has to meet the demands of a growing economy for cargo transport.

The main focus, however, will remain improving the infrastructure for passenger trains and train passengers, especially in the specific areas were greater growth is to be expected. In Amsterdam, 280.000 passengers per day are predicted to use Central Station in 2030. The number today is 185.000. Amsterdam Zuid station will have to be three times larger than it is today, due to the opening of the North-South line in July 2018. Sloterdijk station and Amsterdam Amstel will also have to be enhanced due to largescale residential construction in the area. Schiphol is expected to welcome 180.000 daily passengers, instead of the 80.000 it has now. Between 2021 and 2028, all of the capital city’s stations will be upgraded, including broadening the platforms and improving lift and escalator capacity. In Utrecht, the fastest growing municipality in The Netherlands, there is a need for a new intercity station to help alleviate the traffic of Utrecht Centraal. This includes the program “U Ned for Achievable Healthy Growth in the Metropolitan Region of Utrecht,” which states that by 2040, 122.000 houses will have to be built in the province, most of them around the city of Utrecht. This is partly due to the predicted growth in the economy, which will bring 20.000 new jobs by 2050.

This growth, enhancement and investment also mean an opportunity for innovation in the Dutch railway system. According to Pier Eringa, ProRail wants to invest in new technologies that will make the system more efficient, economical and safe. These include Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and the inclusion of digital technologies and a set of unified railway traffic procedures, associated with the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS).