ANP The track near Esch in North Brabant, which has become clogged because badgers dug under the tracks
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 19:43
Badgers are not only found near the tracks in Esch in Brabant and Molkwerum in Friesland: according to rail manager ProRail, they are found in forty places along railway lines. Where exactly, the company does not report.
The animals do not always cause problems at the track, but that can change quickly because they are “fast diggers”, according to a ProRail spokesperson.
Yesterday, train traffic between Den Bosch and Boxtel was halted after it emerged that badgers had dug under the track. There is a risk that the track at Esch will subside as a result. Trains are also temporarily suspended between the Frisian town of Workum and Stavoren due to badgers making holes under the tracks.
Because badgers are a protected species, they cannot simply be expelled. In Friesland, ProRail is now trying to lure the badgers out from under the track with an artificial corridor system. Until they leave, no trains will run.
The connection in Brabant is a lot busier than the one in Friesland. Normally, sixteen trains run here every hour: twelve intercity trains and four sprinters. ProRail has requested an exemption from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) to disturb the badgers at Esch. “But it has not yet been ratified,” says the ProRail spokesperson.
First application in December
The problems with the badgers at Esch have been in the picture at ProRail since May last year. Then there was a subsidence in the track, says a spokesperson. “The cause turned out to be a badger sett.”
ProRail has been monitoring the situation ever since. In December, the company applied for an exemption from the RVO. In principle, the RVO has thirteen weeks to make a decision. But ProRail itself halted the procedure in the meantime, because another location had to be looked at, says Brenda Heidinga of the RVO.
Since last night, a team of ecologists and lawyers from the RVO has been considering the application again, according to Heidinga. According to her, extra people have been released for it. “They check whether the application is complete, because it is quite extensive. Action plans must have been submitted, ecological research, you name it.”
‘Pace must increase’
Nature conservation organization Das en Boom says it should never have come to this. “We saw this coming four years ago,” says Jaap Dirkmaat of Das en Boom. “We have sent a warning to Rijkswaterstaat, ProRail and the water boards. ‘Remember: this is going to happen, and you should not tolerate that’.”
According to Dirkmaat, the badger population has grown strongly since the 1980s. As a result, the animals are appearing in more and more places, including railways.
But they don’t belong in infrastructure, says Dirkmaat. “Badgers are very stable: they keep digging and sit in the same place for centuries. You shouldn’t think about a train derailing or a dike breaking, then the badgers will be carried on for centuries. You don’t want that.”
The forty places that ProRail is talking about must therefore be mapped out as soon as possible, says Dirkmaat. “You have to know exactly how things stand and what needs to be done and when you start doing it. The pace has to increase.”