ProRail warns that rail traffic on certain routes may temporarily stop in the coming period. The railway manager has been struggling with a shortage of traffic controllers for a long time. Now that they too are increasingly testing for the coronavirus and have to wait for the results at home, the problems are becoming more acute. ProRail is afraid that travellers will suffer from this as well.
Traffic controllers oversee where all trains run. They also decide what happens during delays. Without sufficient traffic controllers, it is not possible to run trains on all routes according to ProRail. “Every train traffic controller has a certain piece of track that he or she operates. Suppose there are incidents on that track, you still have to be able to oversee it”, says ProRail. Because of all connected systems, working at home is technically not possible for traffic controllers.
When traffic controllers at home cannot be replaced, passengers should be minimised as much as possible, says the railway manager. “But then we have to decide not to drive somewhere less or less.”
turned out that ProRails warning is serious two weeks ago. In the morning there were no trains on the Merwedelingelijn near Dordrecht due to the staff shortage. It was only after a few hours that a replacement for a traffic controller was found that the trains could leave again.
ProRail has traffic control stations all over the country. Each post manages rail traffic in that specific region:
At the moment, the problems are greatest at the posts in Utrecht, Rotterdam and Arnhem. But, according to ProRail, that can change quickly due to varying absenteeism. The railway manager is now trying to deploy traffic controllers from other posts in the places where the problems are most acute. “However, this is not always possible because a train traffic controller must have specialist knowledge of the track he or she is operating”, says ProRail.
meantime, they have recently asked pensioners and traffic controllers who are now working elsewhere at ProRail to update. The rail manager has also been increasing the budget spent on recruiting new traffic controllers for several years. However, the effect of this is only visible in the long term, since the training lasts nine months.