ERTMS for Dutch northern regional lines

Arriva train in Groningen

The northern railway lines in the Netherlands will be included in the Dutch ERTMS programme. This means that some 270 kilometres of track in the provinces of Groningen and Friesland will be equipped with ERTMS before 2030. The national government and the provinces of Groningen and Friesland are jointly investing in the conversion of the trains and the training of personnel.

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will allocate more than 300 million euros for the modifications of the track. In addition, the costs of converting around 70 trains and training 200 staff amount to 90 million euros. Of this total, 60 million euros will be paid by the government, 20 million euros by the province of Groningen and 10 million euros by the province of Friesland. It is expected that ERTMS can be used on the route Harlingen-Haven-Leeuwarden in 2026.

Replacing ATB

The current train protection system in the Netherlands ATB is due for replacement. By no longer investing in the old system, but switching to ERTMS earlier than planned, the government is estimated to save 60 million euros. This amount is invested in equipment and training. This will reduce the costs for the provinces of Groningen and Friesland, who are responsible for transport on these regional lines.

ERTMS programme director Wim Knopperts said to Dutch sister magazine SpoorPro in July last year that it would be logical to include the northern lines in the ERTMS programme. According to him, they are ideal “early deployment lines where you can test quietly.”

State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven: “By providing ERTMS for the Northern regional railway lines, we are creating a testing ground from which we can learn a lot. Groningen and Fryslân have previously shown that they like to lead the way with innovative rail projects. The tests with self-driving trains and hydrogen trains are good examples of this.”

Self-driving trains

The ERTMS train safety system also has advantages for passengers. For example, the system increases safety on the track and the track can be used more efficiently, allowing more trains to run and increasing the reliability of the timetable. Self-driving trains can also be used in the future, partly thanks to ERTMS.

Deputy Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk of the province of Groningen: “Already at this moment choosing ERTMS is a good and logical decision. This allows us to equip the regional trains with the most modern security system and staff can already be trained to work with ERTMS. And we are taking steps to make self-driving trains possible in the future. We show again that we embrace innovations and want to be a frontrunner when it comes to modern and sustainable public transport.”

Deputy Avine Fokkens of the province of Friesland: “We are proud of our rail connections in the Northern Netherlands. ERTMS makes it even more reliable. Adjusting train services will also be simpler and cheaper.”

Gain practical experience with ERTMS

ProRail CEO John Voppen sees the equipment of the northern lines with ERTMS as a great opportunity to gain practical experience with the system and the associated processes. “We will use ERTMS to digitally control and secure trains. The introduction of ERTMS is of vital importance for the railways and for Europe. Not introducing is not an option, it is necessary: ​​we have to keep up with the times. The current system is based on old analogue technology.”

Arriva operates passenger transport on the northern lines. Director Anne Hettinga: “As Arriva, we attach great importance to safety and innovation. In the province of Limburg we are already gaining experience with the installation of ERTMS. It is great that this is now being followed up in the North and that we can also use the rail more safely and better there.” Arriva operates passenger transport on the northern lines.

Railway lines throughout the Netherlands will be equipped with the ERTMS signalling system before 2050. Some 1,300 trains will also be converted and more than 15,000 employees trained to work with ERTMS. ERTMS is already in operation on a number of track sections in the Netherlands, for example on the Betuweroute, the HSL-South, the Amsterdam-Utrecht route and the Hanzelijn.

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Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor-in-chief of, and, online magazines for railway professionals.

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