The coalition factions in the Dutch parliament voted against considering developing the Lelylijn, which would better connect the North with the Randstad, and nearly 20 million euros from the budget for the Wunderline to Germany is being reallocated to cover a budgetary shortfall for the Groningen Spoorzone plans.
Translation by Traci White
All of the coalition parties – VVD, D66, CDA and Christen Unie – voted against a motion to seriously consider the option of developing the Lelyline, which would link Groningen, Drachten, Heerenveen, Emmeloord and Lelystad to the bigger cities in the west.
The Leeuwarder Courant reports that all of the opposition parties were in favour of the plans, and business and political representatives from the north were unpleasantly surprised by the coalition’s rejection. Alfred Welink, chairperson of business networking organisation VNO-NCW, described the vote as “idiotic”: “national-level are completely out of touch with the sentiment in the country. They just develop policy and assume that everyone agrees with them, but it’s the other way around in this case.”
In March of 2019, the Heerenveen municipal council passed a motion for the mayor and alderpeople to fully support the Lelyline, and members of the D66 faction voted in favour of the rail line in Drachten: the second largest Frisian city is currently inaccessible by train. “Local politicians in Groningen and Friesland are on board, as are the regional business associations. The public appetite for this rail line is just too big for The Hague to stand in the way.”
SP MP Sandra Beckerman and PvdA MP William Moorlag also expressed dismay in no uncertain terms: Beckerman pointed out that infrastructure in the west has long been financed by Groningen’s natural gas fields, and Moorlag said that national infrastructure plans have to prioritize public transport rather than just considering accessibility for cars.
In the city of Groningen, plans to upgrade the central station and connecting railways are facing a budgetary shortfall. In response, the province has decided to reallocate 19.9 million euros from the development of the Wunderline, which would connect Groningen and Bremen in Germany.
RTV Noord reports that the plans to revamp the Groningen central station will be 26 million euros more expensive than initially budgeted, and alderperson Fleur Gräper of D66 says that the local government has chosen to move money around to finance the plans. “We know that the second phase of the Wunderline will only get underway in 2024, and we know that the Groningen Spoorzone project is facing financial challenges now”, Gräper says.
While 19.9 million will go from the Wunderline project to Groningen, another 5.9 million which was earmarked for works on the Hoogkerk train station is also being reallocated to Groningen. ProRail will be chipping in 500,000 euros to cover the shortfall. Gräper says that the province will have to look to European Union funding to cover the reallocated funds for the Groningen-Germany line.
The Wunderline will eventually include an express train between Groningen and Bad Nieuweschans, but the plans still depend on fixing several issues, namely repairs to the Friesenbrücke between Weener and Wesoverlegingen, which was damaged when it was struck by a boat in 2015, and ensuring that the soil between Groningen and Bad Nieuweschans is stable enough to handle higher speed trains.