“ProRail was not prepared for winter weather”
Various public transport organisations in the Netherlands agree, track operator ProRail was not prepared for the snowstorms on December 10 and 11 of last year. So reports Dutch newspaper AD. It turns out that some railway switches were not ready for the Dutch weather.
Gas vs electricity
Around 5.500 railway switches in the Netherlands have heaters installed. Two-thirds of these heaters are powered by gas. Since these heaters can get clogged when it snows, ProRail has been replacing them with switches that are powered by electricity. As it turns out, however, not all of the new switches were functioning properly.
This meant that on both days, around 50 switches malfunctioned and over 100 trains were cancelled, leaving travellers stranded.
Various public transportation organisations have voiced their opinion on the matter:
- Rikus Spithorst from Maatschappy Voor Beter OV felt it was a major oversight on ProRail’s part that the switches were replaced, but not properly checked before winter: “If you install a new lamp at home, you usually don’t wait until it gets dark to see if it works”.
- Traveller organisation Rover wasn’t happy either, since the faulty switches were located at important railway junctions: “The impact of a malfunctioning switch at these locations is huge”, says Rover policy officer Freek Bos.
- NS spokesman Eric Kroeze wants to evaluate the situation together with ProRail and says: “Whilst winter weather can create problems, for the sake of our travellers, performances must get better on all days, this includes snowy days”.
Even though over 100 trains were cancelled at the time, ProRail wants to emphasise that it did everything it could to prevent cancellation, and that is was only one percent of the heated switches that did not function properly.