THE Dutch government has cancelled plans for high-speed testing of ERTMS equipment on the Hanze line between Zwolle and Lelystad. The trials approved in 2022 would have required closure of the line, plus a further section to Almere, to regular traffic for four months.

Testing at speeds of 200km/h or more was planned to support faster rail connections between the west and northeast of the Netherlands. Currently Netherlands Railways (NS) is the only passenger operator to benefit from higher line speeds through ERTMS.

NS, freight operators, passenger groups and regional governments had all opposed the line closure, pointing to lack of suitable diversionary routes. The decision will delay the rollout of ERTMS in the Netherlands, with work to install the new system on the first three lines delayed by three years compared with the original project schedule. According to the government, costs have increased by €323m.

Project recast

Rising costs and increasing delays have forced a complete recast of the Dutch ERTMS programme. The new approach aims to control project management costs throughout the implementation phase.

ERTMS was originally due to be implemented by 2024, a date that has now slipped to 2030. Questions remain as to whether passenger operators such as NS and Arriva Netherlands will have enough rolling stock fitted with ETCS onboard equipment.

The government has announced the establishment this summer of an Advisory Board for Digitalisation of Rail, which will advise both ERTMS programme managers and rail sector stakeholders on likely requirements going forward.

A new subsidy programme for the installation of ETCS onboard equipment is under development by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the European Commission. At the end of the first stage, under which eight lines will be equipped with ERTMS by 2030, around 1500 rail vehicles are due to be equipped with onboard ETCS Baseline 3 Release 2.

Currently there are eight freight locomotives due to be upgraded from Baseline 2 to Baseline 3 Release 2: two Siemens ES64 F4 electric locomotives, one class 66 diesel, two Bombardier Traxx MS2 electrics, one Vossloh G1206 diesel, one Vossloh G2000 diesel and one MaK (ex- NS) class 6400 diesel locomotive.

Solutions still have to be developed for two other categories of rolling stock: on-track machines and other rail-mounted plant, and heritage rolling stock.