2021 was the busiest year on record for freight in the Netherlands, infrastructure manager ProRail says, despite disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, track work and weather-related issues.

Total freight train-km increased by 7% to 10.1 million in 2021, including 1.6 million on the Rotterdam port line, 2.5 million on the Betuweroute line, and 6 million on the conventional network. Freight volumes increased from 13.6 billion tonne-km in 2020 to 14.7 billion tonne-km in 2021.

The number of freight services crossing the Dutch-German border increased to 46,600 in 2021, up 7% and 3% compared with 2020 and 2019 respectively, while the number of services to and from the port of Rotterdam increased to 37,600, up 10% and 6% compared with 2020 and 2019,  respectively.

Disruptions included major infrastructure works on the German side of the border, such as the renewal of the Venlo - Kaldenkirchen - Viersen line and the expansion of the Zevenaar - Emmerich - Oberhausen line to improve connections with the Betuweroute freight-only line. The Rotterdam port line was also closed for nine days to allow the integration of the 4km Theemswegtracé line.

In contrast, the number of freight trains crossing the Dutch-Belgian border decreased by 7% to 12,200 in 2021.

The increase in freight is partially due to recovery from the pandemic, as well as a growth in intermodal freight, which increased by 9%, and followed the introduction of new services and an increase in frequency of existing services. The growth has also been impacted by new inland intermodal terminals including at Tilburg and Venlo.

Track works on the Venlo - Kaldenkirchen cross-border line resulted in freight services begin diverted, which impacted freight flows between the Ruhr district in Germany and the port of Antwerp.