Theemsweg Route : ‘They will just have to be patient, but it will be worth it’

The construction of the new Theemsweg Route is almost finished. When the new viaduct is connected to the Port Railway Line in November, the Port Railway Line will not be available in the first week of November for six days. A unique situation, says Arjan Olsthoorn, Programme Manager at ProRail.

Sufficient capacity for 230 freight trains

The Theemsweg Route, a four-kilometer viaduct, replaces the Calandbrug for rail freight transport. ‘This bridge has reached the end of its lifecycle, and the new route will help us get rid of a frustrating bottleneck once and for all,’ says Arjan. Freight trains have to stop and stand still when the bridge opens for cargo vessels. Rail freight transport also suffers due to bridge malfunctions.

Huge impact

The construction of the viaduct and the two steel arched bridges commenced in 2017. Contractor VolkerRail is working on the superstructure: building the tracks, cables, ballast, and pipelines. In November, the new route will be connected to the existing Port Railway Line in six days.

‘A closure that will have a huge impact,’ Arjan says. The Port Railway Line has never been closed this long. ‘A regular closure normally takes place at moments agreed on in advance,’ he explains. ‘And then we often choose Catholic public holidays, like Easter or Whitsun, when the entire international logistics industry has a day off. Things are a lot easier then.’

This time it is different. ‘Abroad, it’s business as usual, so the production chain is disrupted. It will take three weeks in total before port logistics have gone back to normal. Scaling-back takes place in week 1. In week 2 there will be no train traffic, and in week 3 we will scale up to get back to our normal international pace,’ Arjan explains.

Logistical challenge

ProRail is facing quite a logistical challenge. Arjan has to meet the challenge as a programme manager. With chain partners, he and his team made an integral logistic plan. Arjan is also the stakeholder manager. Together with the Port of Rotterdam Authority he works on the communication to market parties in the port.

This process started two years ago, by getting in touch with all parties involved. ‘All terminals, traction parties, forwarders, parties in the area and what have you. At a very early stage, we got them involved in the process, and we told them right away that this variant would cause the least hindrance. Forwarders and shippers will just have to be patient, but it will be worth it.’

This is a complex logistical jigsaw.

Arjan Olsthoorn Programme Manager at ProRail

Providing extra transport options

Early this year, Arjan and his team explored the logistical options for rail transport that are available during the closure. ‘At the Waalhaven and Pernis railway yards, it will be really busy, both at night and during the weekend, because the Botlek, Europoort, and Maasvlakte yards cannot be reached. The terminals at Pernis and Waalhaven, where containers are transferred from freighters onto trains and other means of transport, will be open 24/7 to provide additional transportation options.

Arjan and various teams from the Capacity Management department at ProRail are currently creating the first planning drafts. They adjust their plans as well as they can to the plans of the terminals in the period before the Theemsweg Route is opened, during the six days of the closure, and immediately after the route has re-opened.

Complex jigsaw

During the six days in which the Port Railway Line is closed, many freight trains will be standing still or remain abroad. Arjan: ‘We are looking throughout the Netherlands to find space for these non-moving carriages. At the same time, we seize the opportunity to perform more activities. The non-moving freight trains, the working trains, and multiple contractors are all working simultaneously on the Port Railway Line and are pieces of a complex logistical jigsaw.’

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