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A unique event: yesterday, the first freight train ran over the Hoekse Lijn metro line. The freight trains that will be using this track will travel from Schiedam to the Vulcaanhaven industrial estate on the east side of Vlaardingen.

Industrial area with railway

he Hoekse Lijn used to be a train line but is now used as a metro line. In 2017, ProRail disconnected the track between Schiedam and Hoek van Holland from the main railway network. In 2019, the subway line was officially opened. There’s been no freight train on these tracks since the conversion.

When ProRail sold the Hoekse Lijn to the Rotterdam transport company RET, the intent already was that freight trains would use it. Freight trains are expected to pass over it about three times a week from 2022 onwards. That number could grow in the future, says Kees van Dongen, project manager at ProRail. “You now have an industrial area here with a railway. That’s a huge asset for the region.”

Stable operation

It took quite a bit of work to make this construction possible, as Kees tells us. “ProRail and RET had to work together to achieve a stable operation of the line. That took a while, but eventually, we came up with a good solution.”

He explains, “Because the Hoekse Lijn is managed by RET, and not ProRail, that stretch of track is a kind of foreign enclave for us. A freight train that first runs on the main network and then on RET’s local network is crossing a boundary. That limit has to do with the differences in catenary voltage, safety systems and traffic control, among other things.”

Transfer

This boundary is crossed on the so-called Freight Transfer Rail (Goederen Overdracht Spoor or GOS). This is where ProRail traffic control transfers the train to RET traffic control or vice versa. If a freight train is about to enter the metro line, the driver will call RET traffic control. RET will then ensure that the metro line is temporarily cleared so that the freight train can continue safely. Freight trains do not run during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

Ilse Oldenburger is Traffic Control Manager at ProRail in the Randstad South region. She has also been involved in this project for the past few years. “Good arrangements have now been made with RET, and our VL post in Rotterdam has received their instructions. And because we want to be sure that both traffic control centres work well together, we will be monitoring them for a year. To see if everything is working properly.”

Happy fact

Regional Director Helga Cuijpers is pleased with this happy event, “It’s great to see that the hard work of so many people in this project team has been rewarded. Freight transport over a metro line is not an easy thing to arrange. It was a unique achievement both technically and managerially. We succeeded with hard work, a lot of creativity and a solution-oriented approach to achieve the result: freight trains over the Hoekse Lijn.”

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