The maintenance activities had already been scheduled. However, because of the basic timetable now in effect and the coronavirus, the number of trains that are currently running has been drastically reduced, and ProRail and Strukton Rail will start working sooner than planned on replacing the 7.3 kilometres of rails in the Schiphol Tunnel. The technicians will adhere to the guidelines issued by the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in performing their work.

A much calmer railway network

Since the central government announced its measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus, the number of passengers has dropped by more than 85 percent. Passenger carriers Arriva, Keolis, NS, Connexxion and Qbuzz consequently adjusted their timetables last week. Considerably fewer trains are now driving as a result. With these measures the carriers and ProRail aim to ensure that nurses, doctors and everyone else designated as having an essential profession can continue to count on a predictable and reliable train service.

Since then the railway network has been much calmer. As a result, we do not need to make use of some railway segments at all. The oldest of the two Schiphol Tunnel tubes is an example of this.

Wear and tear and corrosion

Some of the rails in this tunnel tube date from the seventies, while others date from the end of the nineties. ProRail had been working on developing replacement plans for some time, but routine inspections showed that the rails were wearing down much faster than originally thought. In the autumn of 2019, we also observed corrosion at the underside of the rails. The wear and tear was confirmed in January when a break in one of the rails prevented trains from running for a short period of time.

Replacing rails normally has a major impact on train traffic. ‘Generally speaking, the work would have had to be spread out over multiple weekends,’ says Track Manager Rolf Schooleman. ‘This would have had major implications for this railway section, namely the need to reduce train service and provide replacement bus service on multiple occasions. That would have meant inconvenience to passengers travelling from and to Schiphol.’

Special thanks to our colleagues who are facilitating the work planning and the actual construction work in such a short timeframe!
Hygiene and keeping distance; hold each other to account!
Tjark de Vries

Super-fast

At a busy station, such as Schiphol, it is always a challenge to find a suitable time to carry out repair work. The original plan called for the work to be spread out over 2020. In fact, part of it was to be carried out in 2021.

Because we are now able to decommission the tunnel tube for a longer period of time, it is possible to do almost all of the work all at once between 30 March and 6 April. ‘The reason is extremely sad,’ says Alf Smolders, Project Manager. ‘But we knew we could make use of the much reduced timetable to schedule the maintenance work sooner and without inconveniencing passengers. Everyone immediately switched gears super-fast.’

RIVM Guidelines

Strukton Rail considers it just as important as ProRail to be able to continue to work safely and healthy. We abide by the guidelines issued by the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environmental (RIVM). Strukton Rail will enter the tunnel tube with minimal crews making it possible for technicians to work at the prescribed one and a half metres from each other.

Track Manager Rolf Schooleman: ‘We could do the work even faster with a larger crew. But even though we are happy we are able to carry out the work sooner, the safety of our technicians and the health of every citizen in the Netherlands naturally come first.’

ProRail and Strukton Rail have more than 170 hours to complete the work. The work will start on 30 March and is expected to be completed in the early morning hours of Monday 6 April.

This news item is based on reporting by ProRail.

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