Badgers cripple Dutch railway lines, infrastructure manager not amused
Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail has had to suspend train traffic on two lines in recent days following the discovery of badger burrows under the tracks. This can result in track instability, which presents a safety risk. A heavily used section of a railway line in the south of the Netherlands was therefore taken out of use on Monday.
The affected line is the one between Den Bosch and Eindhoven, where trains do not run between Den Bosch and Boxtel. The Den Bosch-Eindhoven line is a busy commuter line, and train travellers now have to travel via the nearby city of Tilburg to avoid the section. A reporter of our Dutch sister publication SpoorPro noticed massive overcrowding there on Monday evening. Dutch Railways called the situation “manageable”. Traffic will remain affected for a number of weeks. Badgers are a protected species in the Netherlands, meaning there are procedures ProRail have to follow before being permitted to move the creatures.
Last week, the infrastructure manager had to suspend traffic near Molkwerum in the northern province of Friesland as well. This is an area where burrowing by badgers is a recurring problem. Here, ProRail is hoping to move the badgers to an artificial burrow. Permission to do so is expected later this week, but the entire moving process and making the necessary repairs to the tracks might take more than a month. If the same method can be applied at the other affected area between Den Bosch and Boxtel, remains to be seen. The infrastructure manager has to take a tailored approach in each case.
On Monday, ProRail CEO John Voppen lamented the fact that the procedures currently in place are so time consuming and, thus, to the detriment of travellers. He said talks were ongoing with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to expedite the situation. Passenger association Rover, too, wants to see swift action. ProRail is currently monitoring some 40 locations where badgers are known to be active.
The problems with badgers are not a uniquely Dutch phenomenon. In Germany, the tracks between Unna and Fröndenberg near Dortmund in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia are out of use until at least December 2023.