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Still questions over emission-free operation in the north of the Netherlands

posted on 14th Sep 2023 10:47

Since April 2021, Arriva Nederland operates the WINK units. Although they are technically capable of battery operation, for reasons that are hard to understand, the use of this capability is not in sight...

The WINKs are tri-mode units, fitted with the 1.5 kV DC traction equipment (not used at present), with the diesel engines running on hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO), and with the auxiliary batteries that can be used for traction after certain modifications to the vehicle. This was confirmed by the tests carried out in February 2022 by Stadler, Arriva Nederland in cooperation with the provinces of Overijssel, Gelderland and Fryslân on the WINK 605, which showed that the trains are capable of running exclusively on batteries on non-electrified lines. 

However, in the autumn of 2022, doubts were raised about the advantage and costs of BEMU over EMU operation. And it appears that this uncertainty will continue... As recently as June this year, the provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland announced that they intended to electrify two lines, Almelo - Mariënberg and Hengelo - Zutphen, after enthusiasm for battery-powered train trials had dried up. However, it was announced in July 2023 that electrification would not take place for the time being, as the central government had informed the provinces that it would not contribute to increasing the sustainability of the lines in the coming years. 

The electrification of the lines appears to be expensive: the Hengelo -Zutphen section is expected to cost between 90 and 130 million EUR and the Almelo - Mariënberg section between 40 and 65 million EUR. On the other hand, however, the operation of the EMUs on the Hengelo - Zutphen line should cost 3.5 million EUR less annually than the DMUs.

The funds are no longer available to start the next necessary step, which is the development of an electrification plan by ProRail. The provincial government of Overijssel stated: „With the prospect of the concession coming to an end and the diesel trains reaching the end of their technical life, the consequence of the central government's attitude is that the province will either have to bear the brunt of the costs of electrification and modernisation of the lines itself or order new diesel trains which will then run for another 30 years, which is not in line with the objectives of the climate agreement“.

The province of Overijssel does not want to sit on its hands and wait for a 'bag of money' from The Hague. In the meantime, it has commissioned ProRail to draw up a plan for the electrification of the Almelo - Mariënberg section. And in July this year, Arriva Nederland said that for the time being, neither the battery operation of the WINKs nor the electrification of the lines would be implemented...

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