The Betuweroute is a double track freight railway from Rotterdam to Germany. Betuweroute is the official name, after the Betuwe area through which it passes, but the line is popularly referred to as Betuwelijn, after an older track in the same region. The Germans have named their part the Hollandstrecke. Together they form Project nr. 5 of Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T).[1]

Route (red) of the Betuweroute
LocaleSouth Holland and Gelderland,
Opened16 June 2007
OwnerNS Railinfratrust
Line length159 km (99 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz
Route map
line from Maasvlakte
line from Rotterdam Centraal
line to Breda
line to Breda
Sophia railway tunnel
Noord river
Railway tunnel Giessen
line from Dordrecht to Elst
Merwede canal
Linge river
line from Boxtel to Utrecht Centraal
Linge river
Linge river
havenspoorlijn Tiel
Amsterdam–Rhine canal
Linge river
Linge river
Valburg yard
line from Nijmegen to Arnhem
Linge river
Spoortunnel Pannerdensch Kanaal
Spoortunnel Zevenaar
line from Zevenaar
line from Amsterdam Centraal
State border Germany - Netherlands
DB 2266 to Kleef
DB 2270 to Oberhausen Hbf


Preliminary investigations into the future of west-east transport began in 1985 by the Van Bonde Commission. The main advocate of the line was the then minister Neelie Kroes, later Commissioner in the European Union until 2014. In 1992 the German and Dutch governments signed the Treaty of Warnemünde, a treaty on enhancing rail traffic, especially on the tracks from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Duisburg. The original plans foresaw three branches towards Germany. However, the northern branch via Oldenzaal was abandoned in 1999 and the southernmost track via Venlo saw the axe in 2004. In the same year, the courts forbade the construction of a large logistics centre near Valburg.

Work on the Dutch part of the track began in 1998 by the NS. Delayed by two years, the railway was finished mid-2007, at a cost of 4.7 billion euro, more than twice the original budget of 2.3 billion euro, and more than quadruple the initial 1.1 billion euro estimate from 1990.

Private financing for the line, promoted by the government in a bid to offset the large and rising costs and to stifle criticism about government funding, never materialised. On 16 June 2007, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands presided over the opening ceremony for the section connecting Rotterdam 160 kilometers (99 mi) to the German border.[2] Ignoring the TEN-T and bilateral agreements, the Germans will not complete reconstruction of their section before 2015.[3]


Project management hopes within five years to reach a daily average of 150 freight trains.[4] Due to problems with safety equipment, and the unfinished German connection, traffic was still slight as of December 2007.[5] However, it increased steeply over the years 2008-2011. By mid-2011, 78% of all freight trains between Rotterdam and the German border took the Betuweroute (the rest travelled via Venlo, via the conventional railway via Arnhem to Emmerich am Rhein, or via the border at Bad Bentheim.)[6] From 2009, 6,000 tonne trains, the heaviest in Germany and the Netherlands, transport iron ore between Rotterdam port and Dillingen in Germany using the Betuweroute.

Quarterly number of trains over the Betuweroute.
Q No. of trains



Before and during its construction many Dutch people, experts and politicians such as members of parliament were opposed to the Betuweroute. The Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management received 14,000 complaints against the northern branch alone, which was cancelled in 1999. GroenFront![8] (Green Front), one among dozens of activist groups, accounted for 35 confrontations in 1999-2001.[9] The role of the government and ministers concerned was heavily criticised by university professors and official institutions.

The main concerns about the Betuweroute were:

  • Cost - Even at the original budget of 2.3 billion euro, there was much discussion about economic viability. Initial hopes of attracting private investors turned out to be totally unfounded. In 2000 the Court of Audit convicted the government on having issued unrealistic forecasts about cost, environmental effects and usage of the Betuweroute, as well as insufficient cost control. They stated that promoting river transport should have been considered as a realistic alternative. In 2004 the Centraal Planbureau (Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis), concluded that the construction would never pay its way.
  • Landscape - Fears of ravaging the Groene Hart and the Betuwe. The Groene Hart (Green Heart) of the Randstad is a more or less rural area amidst the Dutch largest cities; the Betuwe is a less densely populated green region along the large Dutch rivers. Both feature classic Dutch polder landscape. The opposition to the original plans forced the construction of additional tunnels, driving the budget up further.
  • Environmental issues - Worries about noise, dangerous chemical spills and the fragmentation of animal habitats caused many environmentalists and neighbours to fiercely resist the new track. In response, extra noise insulation panels, tunnels and wildlife passages were built.
  • Alternatives - As the Court of Audit concluded in its 2000 report, river transport was and still is a realistic alternative. It is cheaper, more flexible, safer and not much slower. The Dutch barge fleet is the largest and among the most modern in Europe,[10] well capable of handling the transport to the German industrial heartland, nearly without any investment by the government. Great Dutch rivers (the Merwede, the Waal and parts of the Rhine, Maas (Meuse), IJssel and Lek) run roughly alongside the Betuweroute. The same goes for the A15, an excellent albeit congested highway, which parallels the railway for 95 kilometers (59 mi).

Several parts of this Controversy section are based on a Dutch scientific investigation.[11]

Specifications and features

  • The route is electrified at 25 kV AC and signalled using the ERTMS2 standard and AF Track Circuits. Electrification complies to new European standards, but current Dutch locomotives can not use the line, as they use a different voltage. The German section of the route does not comply with the new ERTMS2 standards, and uses another voltage, thus limiting usability of the track. Custom-made locomotives were needed. First new-spec locomotive delivered to Railion December 2007.
  • Tunnels, viaducts and other parts of the railway are engineered to be 4.0 m wide and 6.15 m high in order to allow double stacked container trains under overhead wire, although no such trains will be in use for years to come. The overhead wires have now a more standard height, in order to allow locomotives with standard pantograph. This and viaducts on the connecting lines disallows double-stacked containers.
  • For the section from Rotterdam to the large Kijfhoek classification yard existing track was reconstructed, but three quarters of the line is new, from Kijfhoek to Zevenaar near the German border.
  • Total length of noise insulation panels on both sides is 160 kilometers (99 mi), the same as the route length.
  • Roll bars along the track keep derailed cars from toppling.
  • 5 tunnels and several roofed sections add up to a length of 20 kilometers (12 mi).
  • 190 passages for crossing wildlife
  • 130 bridges and viaducts, no level crossings.[12]
  • Capacity for 10 trains per hour in each direction, when the German-section signalling and other infrastructure is updated.


A lot of infrastructure was built or reconstructed to get the trains rolling. The most striking works:

  • container terminals in Rotterdam: Rail Service Centre Maasvlakte, Rail Service Centre Waalhaven, and Maasvlakte 2[13]
  • The 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) long Botlekspoortunnel under Rotterdam harbour replaces the antiquated Botlek bridge, which remains in service as backup and for regional traffic. Space around the tunnel was so constrained that, after completing the first tube, the tunnel boring machine had to be dismantled inside the tube. The parts were then returned to the starting point and reassembled to bore the second tube.
  • Reconstructed classification yard Kijfhoek between Barendrecht and Zwijndrecht.[14]
  • Barendrecht railway station, where 9 tracks are in a 1.5 kilometers (0.93 mi) long structure, much of it covered under a layer of earth, to keep noise at bay. On top is a new city park. At the station itself 4 of the tracks, with the platforms, have a glass roof. Nearby tracks cross on two levels.
  • Tunnel under Pannerdensch Kanaal near Angeren. Instead of the projected bridge, a 2.7 kilometers (1.7 mi) tunnel was bored, to spare landscape and environment. The tunnel entrances were designed to blend in with the landscape. The tunnel itself has large lock doors at each end, to prevent a flood on one side of the canal inundating the region on the opposite bank. Because two endangered animal species were found in the vicinity of the tunnel, a new habitat was laid out for the Great crested newt and the Natterjack Toad, as this video shows.[15]


The route is a direct line from the Maasvlakte to Zevenaar, connecting the Port of Rotterdam to Germany.

Compared with the previous rail route between Barendrecht and Elst the main deviations are:


Municipalities along Betuweroute:

Train path tariff

Unlike other Dutch rail network tariffs, the tariff charged to train operators for the use of the Betuwe rail line is not calculated by train weight, but by the distance the train travels. Between 2008 and 2011 it has increased progressively from €1.41 per train kilometer to €2.33 per train kilometer.[16]

See also


Several parts of this article are based on: "Decision process and construction of Betuweroute, 1985-2007" (in German). Archived from the original on 2008-05-17.

  1. "Betuweroute and the TEN network" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  2. "First freight train on the Betuweroute". 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  3. "Germany ignores Betuwelijn". 2007-09-05. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  4. "FAQ Keyrail". Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  5. "Marginal use of Betuweroute". 2007-08-01. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  6. Halfjaarbericht Keyrail, August 2011.
  7. Halfjaarbericht Keyrail, August 2010, Jaardienstverdeling Keyrail, May 2011.
  8. "Vrienden van GroenFront! | EarthFirst! Netherlands Support Group". Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  9. 35 actions by Groen Front against the Betuweroute, 1999-2001 Archived 2007-06-29 at the Wayback Machine Dutch
  10. River transportation: Market observation 2006 Archived October 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Dutch barge fleet accounts for more than 50% of total tonnage in Rhine and Meuse basins, (p42). And is the most modern, second only to the German fleet, (p55). (in Dutch)
  11. Rail transport vs. river transport. Scientific investigation on costs, safety, environment. Archived 2005-12-17 at the Wayback Machine Dutch
  12. Features of Betuweroute Archived December 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Dutch
  13. "Expansion of Rail Infrastructure and Transfer Capacity". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  14. Website Rail cargo information. "Document showing layout Kijfhoek" (PDF) (in Dutch). Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  15. "Short video about new habitat for the Great crested newt, Dutch spoken". Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  16. Betuweroute: Start mit Schwierigkeiten. In: Schweizer Eisenbahn-Revue. Nr. 8/9, 2007, ISSN 1022-7113, S. 382.

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