Connecting the Netherlands with the World by Rail

For many exporting countries the Netherlands remains the primary gateway into and out of Europe and the rest of the world – by road, rail, air and sea. However, rail has become an increasingly sustainable alternative for cargo transport. Nearly 85% of all rail freight in the Netherlands is international. The latest routes added are two direct cargo rail links to China.

Cargo train

Cargo train

The cargo trains run between the Dutch cities Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Tilburg to the Chinese hubs Chongqing, Wuhan and Chengdu. The 12,000 km journey takes about 15 days and is mainly used to transport time-sensitive products that are usually transported by sea. Transporting these goods via rail is faster, more sustainable and cheaper than by air or road.

More sustainable

Trains save 70% CO2 emissions compared to semi-trucks. This is true for both electric trains and diesel trains. Also, more cargo can be transported via rail, per trip.

For example, semi-truck manufacturers Scania and MAN use the rail to transport their vehicles from their plant in the Netherlands to Austria and vice-versa. Trucks manufactured in Scania’s Dutch plant are transported to Austria via rail to be distributed in the region. On the return trip, that same train will carry MAN trucks from their Austrian plant to the Netherlands to be distributed in the Benelux region.

Recently, Spain and the Netherlands established a freight train link between Valencia and the Port of Rotterdam. The train transports fruits and vegetables in specialised containers that keep the produce fresh during transport.

Extensive international rail freight system

The freight rail network in the Netherlands is extensive, connecting major Dutch ports to the hinterlands of Europe and beyond. Some of the major lines are:

  • Betuwe Line: this fast-direct link between Port of Rotterdam and Germany is Europe’s only dedicated rail freight route.
  • Rhine Alpine rail freight corridor: this line runs from the Ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam deep into Germany and Italy. It carries by far the most rail freight in Europe.
  • North Sea – Baltic rail freight corridor: this route directly connects the Ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam with Poland and the Belarussian border.
  • North Sea Mediterranean rail freight corridor: the line connects the Dutch North Sea ports with Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.

As mentioned, the Netherlands’ latest cargo railway link is between the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam – via Tilburg – to central China.

Ambitious plans

Even though the Netherlands is currently the world’s best connected economy, it still has plans to further improve its logistics. These include:

  • grow rail freight to 61 million tons by 2030;
  • improve and create international rail freight corridors in collaboration with other countries;
  • use Dutch expertise to lead the global logistics industry to a greener, smarter and more sustainable future;
  • reduce CO2 emissions by 49% in 2030.