High quality connecting lines almost finished. Enabling rail transport for the next century

In 2015, the ‘Spoorzone Delft’ was officially opened. In ten years, the city of Delft underwent a metamorphosis. The old train viaduct made way for a long railroad tunnel with an underground station and space for four tracks. Above ground, room for housing and a new city office was created. At the same time, work was carried out on another rail project: the construction of rail shunting yard on the DSM site. This is now nearing completion.

On a rail shunting yard, trains can be parked for storage and (un)loading of goods before or after shipment. These lines connect to a main rail network. The rail shunting yard on the DSM site in Delft exist since the 1960s. They are quite special, because not many of these were built in the Netherlands. "We used the rail shunting yard to get raw materials like sulfuric acid and ammonia to our site in a safe way," says Prashant Gupta, program manager at DSM in Delft. "Every week several rail loads arrived at our site." In addition to road and water transport, this made the site accessible by train. "That's great, because transport by rail is more sustainable than road transport."

 All transport options open

Because of the construction of the new railroad tunnel, which goes underground at DSM, the connecting lines had to be rebuilt. "This created a height difference that we couldn't bridge easily," says Geert Neefs, environment manager for ProRail, the company responsible for the railroad network in the Netherlands. Initially, ProRail wanted to make an agreement with DSM to not rebuild the rail shunting yard. DSM didn't find that acceptable. Gupta: "We don't know how our site will develop in the coming decades. Therefore, we like to keep all transport options open." A period of negotiations with ProRail followed, and in 2008 the parties signed a cooperation agreement. ProRail would build a new complex, austere but according to the latest standards. There was to be a ramp from the main railroad line to the new interchange. The railroad underpass between the eastern and western parts of the site would also be widened and deepened. ProRail would carry this out in close consultation with DSM and without hindering normal business operations.

Minimal inconvenience

In practice this proved to be complex. Nitrogen tanks, cables and pipelines had to be moved, steam pipes replaced, hundreds of meters of temporary pipelines laid, a new road constructed, and the soil cleaned up. "After 150 years of industrial activity, there were things in the ground that are no longer acceptable by today's standards," say Neefs and Gupta. The preparations alone took three years. Not until 2011 the work could begin. Prashant Gupta is full of praise for the engineering and execution of the work. Neefs is also particularly proud. "We had to work with large equipment within very small margins," he says. "Sometimes extreme accuracy was demanded. Moreover, we wanted to cause as little inconvenience as possible to the company and local residents. For example, sheet piles were pressed instead of vibrating them."

New time horizon

The initial deadline of 2015 was looming ever closer. Neefs: "In the end we decided to separate the construction of the tunnel access and the underpass, from the construction of the rail shunting yard. The first two could thus meet the 2015 deadline. Because the work on the DSM site and the coordination required for it were complicated, the rail shunting yard was given a new time horizon." Gupta: "There was no other way, but it did mean that we had to use trucks to bring in our raw materials for years to come. Unfortunately, because rail transport is and will continue to be more sustainable than diesel powered trucks."

Two additional unloading stations

Now the time has come: the rail shunting yard is ready. At the end of this year the new unloading stations will also be constructed. In 2023 raw materials can be delivered by rail again. At night, because during the day the track is too busy. "We are currently building two more unloading stations and then we will be finished, it is the final step," says Neefs. For local residents little will change, but for Neefs and Gupta it will. Gupta: "Two worlds came together, we as an industrial enterprise and rail construction company ProRail. In the beginning there was quite a bit of mistrust, but none of that remains: we appreciate each other enormously. Together with the executing parties, we have delivered a great achievement - I dare say that the railway segment is a pearl. We will soon be ready for a new century of rail transport. We will certainly celebrate that together!"